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Rubber Duckies, Ocean Currents,
Transcript of Rubber Duckies, Ocean Currents,
and Shanghai Plastic
Purpose and Background
Research the path of trash from the Yangtze (Chang Jiang) Estuary, into the Yellow Sea and beyond.
Focus will be on the journey the trash makes from Shanghai, into the Yellow sea, and on into the Pacific Ocean where currents transport it to far off places.
The specific currents involved and their characteristics will be examined.
Yangtze River and Chang Jiang River are two names for the same river.
Plotting the Path the Plastic in Currents
Location of Study
From Duckies to Us
Do we have our own rubber ducky stories here in Shanghai?
How can we predict where our plastic pollution in the Yangtze River will go?
Tracking Ocean Currents
Floats are placed in the water and sink to a predetermined depth. They travel along the currents measuring the salinity, temperature, and currents. After 14 days they surface, relay their data to a satellite, and then begin the cycle over.
Sea currents are vital to an oceanographers understanding of the ocean. Floats and drift bottles are two methods, out of many, that are used to measure characteristics of ocean currents..
An inexpensive way to track currents, researchers drop a water tight sealed glass bottle from ship (50-100) with a note inside of how to contact them if it is found. The researcher notes the drop current and the location that it is found. Usually there is only a 2% recovery rate. However, when 30,000 plastic ducks went overboard in the Pacific, researchers were excited about what followed!
Here is the story of how rubber duckies informed us about the flow of ocean currents - and eventually plastic pollution.
What can duckies teach us about our oceans?
Earth’s Oceans are all connected and part of one global ocean system
Many actions eventually impact the oceans in terms of surface runoff and pollution
Yangtze River or Chang Jiang River Estuary
Entering into the Yellow Sea
Aerial Shot of the Yangtze Entering Into the Yellow Sea and East China Sea
Facts about the Yangtze/Chang Jiang River:
Asia's longest water course of 6300 km
Source - Tibetan Plateau at 6000 meters
Mouth - Near Shanghai, enters into the East China Sea (Yellow Sea)
Lower and Middle: Carry heavy pollutant loads - nitrates, heavy metals, cadmium, chromium, copper, nickel, arsenic, zinc. All at unsafe levels
Throughout River - Plastic pollution
Evidence of Trash
China Leads in Contributions to Pacific Garbage Patch
"The problematic water hyacinth outbreak in Shanghai’s Huangpu River has gone from unsightly to gross over the weeks as the swath of now-rotting aquatic plants has become a net of sorts for garbage to get tangled up in."
Proof of Floating Plastic in Shanghai - making its way into the Yellow Sea and East China Sea
Assignment: Go to the following website and read about China's role in plastic pollution in our oceans. Please take Cornell Notes on this article:
Where does it go?
This animation shows where the trash
along the Pacific Coasts accumulates in two
gyres: Northwest Pacific Gyre and the Northeast
Pacific Gyre. Collectively they are known as the North Pacific Gyre.
Go to the following interactive website. View the wind overlay and the current overlay of the Yellow Sea and East China Sea.
1) Set gauge to the following parameters and observe the wind across the yellow see. Make a sketch in your notebook and explain.
2) Set gauge to the following parameters and observe the ocean currents across the yellow see. Make a sketch in your notebook and explain.
Share your explanations with the person sitting next to you.
What patterns did you notice?
How are the wind and the currents similar or different?
What main currents did you observe in the Yellow Sea?
What main currents did you observe in the China Sea?
Do you see any possible paths for plastic trash?
On your diagram of the ocean currents, mark with a red arrow possible paths for plastic trash to travel leaving the Yangtze River Estuary.
Discussing Your Diagrams
What forces cause water currents to form and move?
Density and Gravity
Winds and currents in the northern hemisphere will turn to the right as the Earth spins.
Winds and currents in the southern hemisphere will turn to the left as the Earth spins.
Cooler water is more dense than warm water, so it is pulled downward by gravity.
High salinity (high salt content) water is more dense than low salinity water, so gravity will pull it downward.
Density and Gravity
Large mound of circular currents in the ocean basins influenced by surface winds and the coriolis effect.
Example: Much of the trash the enters the Yellow Seas makes its way to the North Pacific Gyre. Trash gets caught in the middle.
Analyzing the path of currents in the Yellow Sea and the path of plastic pollution.
Winter/Summer Current Circulation in East China Sea
At "f" the Yangtze/Chang Jiang River meets the Yellow Sea.
The currents are swept southward along the east coast of China and many get swept up in the Kuroshio Current - the western boundary of the North Pacific Gyre.
Along the way, trash is deposited along shorelines and begins to break into smaller pieces by the sun - photo degrade. They do not biodegrade.
is the Key Transportation Engine for Yellow Sea Trash once it makes its way out of the Yellow Sea Basin
Black Current or Japan Current
Salinity: 34.5 ppt
Temperature: 20 Deg. Celsius
Depth: 400 meters
Rate: 50-300 cm/s
Eventually becomes the North Pacific Current.
Analyzing Scientific Data to Further
Your Understanding of the Currents of the Yellow Sea and East China Sea
Click on the following site:
How does the last animation, "Particle Tracking Experiment" add to your understanding of a possible path for plastics? Record this in your notes.
Trash Animation! Drop your trash in the Korea Strait and See where it travels.
Does it end up where we think it might?
Where else do the currents take it?
Click here! http://www.adrift.org.au/
Movement of the Kuroshio Current is influenced by the seasonal temperature changes.
Modeling the Coriolis Effect
This is a teacher directed lesson. As an instructor, read over the lessons plan and prepare the necessary materials.
Ocean Currents Lab
You will discover:
The types of currents in the ocean
The connections between weather and currents?
How currents distribute nutrients
Where ocean currents get their energy
Go to the following website to complete the lab. Your instructor will advise you about the order and organization of your lab.
- A lab from sciencebuddies.org -
Read the following article and take notes.
Now...let's check out the main currents in the Yellow Sea and East China Sea. After all, we need to try and determine where our trash will end up!
Fundamentals of Oceanography CL - ERTH_591
March 14, 2015
How do the currents change in summer and winter?
How does the flow of freshwater from the Yangtze River (CRDW) change from summer to winter?
How would this change the course of floating plastic in the surface currents to the Kuroshio Current?