Observations of Near-Surface Current Shear Help Describe Oceanic Oil and Plastic Transport

Type Article
Date 2018-01
Language English
Author(s) Laxague Nathan J. M.1, Ozgokmen Tamay M.1, Haus Brian K.1, Novelli GuillaumeORCID1, Shcherbina Andrey2, Sutherland Peter3, Guigand Cedric M.1, Lund BjornORCID1, Mehta Sanchit1, Alday Matias5, Molemaker Jeroen4
Affiliation(s) 1 : Univ Miami, Rosenstiel Sch Marine & Atmospher Sci, Dept Ocean Sci, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149 USA.
2 : Univ Washington, Appl Phys Lab, Seattle, WA USA.
3 : Inst Francais Rech Exploitat Mer, Lab Oceanog Phys & Spatiale, Plouzane, France.
4 : Univ Calif Los Angeles, Atmospher & Ocean Sci, Los Angeles, CA USA.
Source Geophysical Research Letters (0094-8276) (Amer Geophysical Union), 2018-01 , Vol. 45 , N. 1 , P. 245-249
DOI 10.1002/2017GL075891
WOS© Times Cited 28
Keyword(s) ocean current shear, near-surface currents, marine plastics, spilled oil, Lagrangian transport
Abstract

Plastics and spilled oil pose a critical threat to marine life and human health. As a result of wind forcing and wave motions, theoretical and laboratory studies predict very strong velocity variation with depth over the upper few centimeters of the water column, an observational blind spot in the real ocean. Here we present the first-ever ocean measurements of the current vector profile defined to within 1 cm of the free surface. In our illustrative example, the current magnitude averaged over the upper 1 cm of the ocean is shown to be nearly four times the average over the upper 10 m, even for mild forcing. Our findings indicate that this shear will rapidly separate pieces of marine debris which vary in size or buoyancy, making consideration of these dynamics essential to an improved understanding of the pathways along which marine plastics and oil are transported.

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How to cite 

Laxague Nathan J. M., Ozgokmen Tamay M., Haus Brian K., Novelli Guillaume, Shcherbina Andrey, Sutherland Peter, Guigand Cedric M., Lund Bjorn, Mehta Sanchit, Alday Matias, Molemaker Jeroen (2018). Observations of Near-Surface Current Shear Help Describe Oceanic Oil and Plastic Transport. Geophysical Research Letters, 45(1), 245-249. Publisher's official version : https://doi.org/10.1002/2017GL075891 , Open Access version : https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00425/53614/