New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge

The Simulation of Trash Vortices and Their Decomposition in Ocean Gyres

Team: 48

School: Los Alamos High

Area of Science: Environmental Science


Interim: Problem Definition:
The goal of our project is to simulate the trash vortices found in many oceans around the world. Due to the nature of oceanic currents, large amounts of plastic and trash congregate within ocean gyres: large systems of circular currents formed by global wind patterns and Earth's rotation. Plastic decomposition is noted within gyres due to multiple factors, including temperature, sunlight, and collisions, amongst other variables. Thus, plastic breaks down into very small pieces, polluting the oceans in various scales - that of the microscopic as well as the view able.

Problem Solution:
Our model is a coupled hydrodynamic and particle method. The hydrodynamical simulation will model ocean currents which the particle simulation will use for particle velocities. We plan to simulate the plastic flow into the ocean with different “injection” points along the coastline for our particle model. Our simulation will include a plastic breakdown model which will take ocean salinity, pH, and ultraviolet light into account. Our simulation should be able to track particle spread and chemical breakdown throughout ocean currents to determine which areas are affected and by how much.

Progress to Date:
Currently, we have been working on the hydrodynamical simulation, as that is the base of our project. We are in progress of completing our 2D hydrodynamic code and are going to implement a blocking model to simulate the coastlines. Threading will be implemented into the hydro code to speed up the overall simulation.

Expected Result:
Our simulation should provide us with a map of particle spread and distributions across the ocean, which we can then compare to collected experimental data and other similar simulations. Some additional results would show our simulation data with ocean fisheries to determine if the plastic has a large impact on local sea life. Data results of plastic particles can be compared to the amount collected in the real world to determine an approximation of how much is entering the food chain and possibly at what rate.

References:
Barry, Carolyn. "Plastic Breaks Down in Ocean, After All -- And Fast." National Geographic Society, 20 Aug. 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.
Bernstein, Michael. "Plastics in Oceans Decompose, Release Hazardous Chemicals, Surprising New Study Says." American Chemical Society, 19 Aug. 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.
"Ocean Gyre." National Geographic Society. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.
Schwartz, John. "New Research Quantifies the Oceans’ Plastic Problem." The New York Times. The New York Times, 10 Dec. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.
"What Is the Problem." 5 Gyres Institute. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.


Team Members:

  Coleman Kendrick
  Sincheng Huang

Sponsoring Teacher: Adam Drew

Mail the entire Team

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