Where did you come from and how did you get here?

The earthquake off the coast of Japan in March, 2011, and the subsequent tsunami, deposited nearly 5 million tons of debris (known as JTMD) into the ocean. This created a unique opportunity to study the dispersal of floating debris, and the organisms attached to it, by the surface ocean currents.

In Lesson 1 students will construct models of ocean surface currents to explain JTMD dispersal, and then use articles, videos, and satellite images of global air currents and surface ocean currents to adjust and revise their dispersal models. Finally, students will compare and contrast their model to a marine debris dispersal map created by NOAA to make observations about scientific models and determine ways to test their viability.

In a second lesson, students will use the Japanese Ministry of the Environment’s predictions of the amount of debris lost in 2011 and the landfill data from Long Beach, WA, collected in 2013, to calculate the amount of debris collected thus far. Students will create a data collection plan that could be implemented to generate more reliable data of JTMD dispersal or the dispersal of debris after a future event.

Authors: Chris Ampersand, Kara Allan, Dana Spink; EARTH 2015

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