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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a large and persistent accumulation of marine debris, primarily consisting of plastics, located in the North Pacific Ocean. It has evolved over time due to a combination of factors, including ocean currents, human activity, and weathering.
The existence of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was first hypothesized in the 1980s, but it wasn't until later that scientific expeditions and research confirmed its presence. It is challenging to pinpoint the exact date of its formation because plastic pollution in the ocean gradually accumulates.
The patch's formation is primarily attributed to the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a system of rotating ocean currents that traps debris brought in by coastal currents. The debris consists of various types of plastics, including bottles, bags, fishing nets, and microplastics.
The size and concentration of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch have grown over the years due to the continuous influx of plastics into the ocean. This is primarily driven by human activities such as improper waste disposal, littering, and plastic production. Plastics are durable and can persist in the environment for a long time, gradually accumulating in the patch.
Below is an animated map created by Reddit user: bradyrx are results from a simulation of the Model for Prediction Across Scales - Ocean (MPAS-O). During the research was released 1 million virtual particles throughout the global ocean, from the surface to deep to better understand fluid pathways in the ocean. This reveals the fate of surface "drifters" in the North Pacific, which collect in the famous 1.6 million square kilometer garbage patch. This was made using ParaView.
Simulations like this take a long time to run. Scientists ran 50 years of this climate model, with 10-kilometer grid cells in the ocean. The research used 10,000 CPUs on a supercomputer at Los Alamos National Lab and it took roughly 6 months of real-world time to run.


The presence of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has had detrimental effects on marine ecosystems. Marine animals can become entangled in larger pieces of debris, and ingestion of plastics can harm or kill them. Additionally, toxic chemicals can adhere to plastic particles, potentially impacting the health of marine organisms.
Several organizations and initiatives have been launched to address the issue of plastic pollution in the ocean and to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. These efforts involve the use of specialized vessels and technology to remove debris from the ocean. However, the vast size and dispersed nature of the patch make cleanup challenging, and it is an ongoing process.

To learn more about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch have a look at the following books and movies:

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