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People at NASA are pretty darn smart. If we want to take care of our oceans, it’s important to understand how and where everything moves in its currents, so they decided to create a moving model of how trash collects in five large pockets called garbage patches.

What you’re seeing in the video is basically a projection of 20 years into the future. It’s a compilation of data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration along with something they call the ECCO-2 simulation. The NOAA data was a collection of information taken from buoys over the past 35 years, which is publicly available data, tracking ocean currents, salinity, and ocean temperatures. The ECCO-2 simulation has particles dropped into the ocean and evenly distributed across the globe. The particles you see are a representation of actual trash in the ocean. Some of those particles hit land and disappear, which represents trash washing up on your local beach. But the particles that didn’t expire (in the simulation) would be taken away with the ocean currents into one of the five collections of garbage patches.

The result here is that the buoy data created the same patterns expected in the simulation of dropped particles. Viola, five garbage patches found from both 35 years of data and a simulation of what our oceans could look like in 20 years.

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