by Patricia Waldron, Inside Science
If you toss a message in a bottle into the ocean, instead of washing up on a distant shore, it will probably end up in one of the world’s five major floating garbage patches — but which one?
By using models of ocean currents, researchers have calculated the boundaries of each section of the ocean, which can extend beyond the traditionally defined borders. In the process, they found that they can predict which garbage patch will receive a piece of plastic depending on where the litter is tossed. The research may one day pinpoint areas where wildlife interacts with the moving trash. It may also help identify the biggest plastic polluters, which contribute to garbage patches that some researchers estimate to be twice the size of Texas.
"We’ve redefined how one should draw the borders of the oceans," said coauthor and mathematician Gary Froyland, at University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. "It’s more scientifically meaningful to draw the boundaries according to where the water moves as opposed to just the legal, geographical boundaries."
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