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Plastic Pollution in the Coastal Oceans: Characterization and Modeling

Lermusiaux, P.F.J., M. Doshi, C.S. Kulkarni, A. Gupta, P.J. Haley, Jr., C. Mirabito, F. Trotta, S.J. Levang, G.R. Flierl, J. Marshall, T. Peacock, and C. Noble, 2019. Plastic Pollution in the Coastal Oceans: Characterization and Modeling. In: OCEANS '19 MTS/IEEE Seattle, 27-31 October 2019, in press.

To cleanup marine plastics, accurate modeling is needed. We outline and illustrate a new partial-differential-equation methodology for characterizing and modeling plastic transports in time and space (4D), showcasing results for Massachusetts Bay. We couple our primitive equation model for ocean dynamics with our composition based advection for Lagrangian transport. We show that the ocean physics predictions have skill by comparison with synoptic data. We predict the fate of plastics originating from four sources: rivers, beach and nearshore, local Bay, and remote offshore. We analyze the transport patterns and the regions where plastics accumulate, comparing results with and without plastic settling. Simulations agree with existing debris and plastics data. They also show new results: (i) Currents set-up by wind events strongly affect floating plastics. Winds can for example prevent Merrimack outflows reaching the Bay; (ii) There is significant chaotic stirring between nearshore and offshore floating plastics as explained by ridges of Lagrangian Coherent Structures (LCSs); (iii) With 4D plastic motions and settling, plastics from the Merrimack and nearshore regions can settle to the seabed before offshore advection; (iv) Internal waves and tides can bring plastics downward and out of main currents, leading to settling to the deep bottom. (v) Attractive LCSs ridges are frequent in the northern Cape Cod Bay, west of the South Shore, and southern Stellwagen Bank. They lead to plastic accumulation and sinking along thin subduction zones.


Forecasting synoptic transients in the Eastern Ligurian Sea

Robinson, A.R., J. Sellschopp, W.G. Leslie, A. Alvarez, G. Baldasserini, P.J. Haley, P.F.J. Lermusiaux, C.J. Lozano, E. Nacini, R. Onken, R. Stoner, P. Zanasca, 2003. Forecasting synoptic transients in the Eastern Ligurian Sea. In "Rapid Environmental Assessment", Bovio, E., R. Tyce and H. Schmidt (Editors), SACLANTCEN Conference Proceedings Series CP-46, Saclantcen, La Spezia, Italy.

Oceanographic conditions in the Gulf of Procchio, along the northern Elba coast, are influenced by the circulation in the Corsica channel and the southeastern Ligurian Sea. In order to support ocean prediction by nested models, an initial 4-day CTD survey provided initial ocean conditions. The purposes of the forecasts were threefold: i) in support of AUV exercises; ii) as an experiment in the development of rapid environmental assessment (REA) methodology; and, iii) as a rigorous real time test of a distributed ocean ocean prediction system technology. The Harvard Ocean Prediction System (HOPS) was set up around Elba in a very high resolution domain (225 m horizontally) which was two-way nested in a high resolution domain (675 m) in the channel between Italy and Corsica. The HOPS channel domain was physically interfaced with a one-way nest to the CU-POM model run in a larger Ligurian Sea domain. Eleven nowcasts and 2-3 day forecasts were issued during the period 26 September to 10 October, 2000 for the channel domain and for a Procchio Bay operational sub-domain of the Elba domain.

After initialization with the NRV Alliance, CTD survey data adaptive sampling patterns for nightly excursions of the Alliance were designed on the basis of forecasts to obtain data for assimilation which would most efficiently maintain the structures and variability of the flow in future dynamical forecasts. Images of satellite sea surface temperature were regularly processed and used for track planning and also for model verification. Rapid environmental assessment (REA) techniques were used for data processing and transmission from ship to shore and vice versa for model results. ADCP data validated well the flow in the channel. Additionally and importantly, the direction and strength of the flow in Procchio Bay were correctly forecast by dynamics supported only by external observations. CU-POM model hydrographic and geostrophic flow data was assimilated successfully on boundary strips of the HOPS domain. Flow fields with/without CU-POM nesting were qualitatively similar and a quantitative analysis of differences is under study. A significant result was the demonstration of a powerful and efficient distributed ocean observing and prediction system with in situ data collected in the Ligurian Sea, satellite data collected at SACLANTCEN, forecast modeling at Harvard University and the University of Colorado, and adaptive sampling tracks designed at Harvard. The distributed system functioned smoothly and effectively and coped with the adverse six-hour time difference between Massachusetts and Italy.