Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex, is a gyre of marine litter in the central North Pacific Ocean located roughly between 135°W to 155°W and 35°N to 42°N. The patch runs over an indeterminate area, with estimates ranging very widely depending on the degree of plastic concentration used to define the affected area.
The area is an oceanic desert, filled with tiny phytoplankton but few big fish or mammals. Due to its lack of large fish and gentle breezes, fishermen and sailors rarely travel through the gyre. But the area is filled with something besides plankton: trash, millions of pounds of it, most of it plastic. It’s the largest landfill in the world, and it floats in the middle of the ocean.
The Patch is is known fory high concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge, and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre.Interestingly,despite its size and density, the patch is not visible from satellite , since plastics break down to even smaller polymers, concentrations of submerged particles are not visible from space, nor do they appear as a continuous debris field. Instead, the patch is defined as an area in which the mass of plastic debris in the upper water column is significantly higher than average.
The Great Garbage Patch was predicted in a 1988 paper published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) . The prediction was based on results obtained by several Alaska-based researchers between 1985 and 1988 that measured neustonic plastic in the North Pacific Ocean.Charles J. Moore, returning home through the North Pacific Gyre after competing in the Transpac sailing race in 1997,saw an enormous stretch of floating debris. Moore alerted the oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, who subsequently dubbed the region the “Eastern Garbage Patch” (EGP).The area is frequently featured in media reports as an exceptional example of marine pollution.Moore’s claim of having discovered a large, visible debris field is, however, a mischaracterization of the polluted region overall, since it consists primarily of particles that are generally invisible to the naked eye.
A similar patch of floating plastic debris is found in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch formed gradually as a result of marine pollution gathered by oceanic currents. The
patch occupies a large and relatively stationary region of the North Pacific Ocean bound by the North Pacific Gyre (a remote area commonly referred to as the horse latitudes). The gyre’s rotational pattern is such that it draws in waste material from across the North Pacific Ocean, including coastal waters off North America and Japan. Once material is captured in the currents, wind-driven surface currents gradually move floating debris toward the center, trapping it in the region.
Links and Sources:
- Ocean’s plastic pollution turned into art (thezigzagger.com)
- Documenting the Great Pacific Garbage Patch a.k.a. ‘Plastic Island’ (12160.info)
- Great Pacific Garbage Patch Expanding (inquisitr.com)
- Seas of Garbage (mybigearth.com)
- Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Japanese tsunami debris could drift to West Coast of US, experts say (vancouversun.com)