Scientists from the University of Michigan have come up with an innovative method to track ocean plastic- by using a monitoring satellite by NASA. The team used data collected by NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) to gauge the presence of microplastics in the ocean. Micros plastics are broken fragments of plastic that form when the non-biodegradable trash in the ocean gets broken down by sun rays and ocean waves.
How did they trace microplastics?
CYGNSS is a constellation of eight satellites, tasked not only with providing information about hurricanes but also uses radar to measure ocean roughness, which is affected by several factors including wind speed and debris floating in the water, as per NASA. So working backwards, the researchers looked out for locations where the ocean was smoother than expected given the wind speed.
At these locations, they speculated the presence of microplastics. Then they compared those areas to observations and model predictions of where microplastics congregate in the ocean,” NASA said. Their hunch was right and the team discovered that microplastics tended to be present in smoother waters, implying that CYGNSS could be indeed used to detect microplastics.
“The results were published online on June 9, 2021 in IEEE Transactions of Geoscience and Remote Sensing. The work was done by Chris Ruf, professor at the University of Michigan and principal investigator for CYGNSS, and undergraduate student Madeline C. Evans” a startment on NASA website read.
This comes research stated that the US and UK are the world’s third-largest plastic waste producer globally that together contribute largely to marine plastic pollution. Americans rank as high as third in the world to generate the total plastic waste dumped in the oceans as opposed to the Asian nations, unlike researchers have argued previously. Ocean Conservancy in its new findings said, “The United States is a top contributor to coastal plastic pollution” and it shipped abroad more than half of the plastic collected for recycling in the US. It added that this was mostly to the developing countries struggling to manage plastic waste.
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