A Herald data blog post by Laurent Lebreton (@dumpark)
With the appearance of debris from MH370, news organisations such as the New York Times created simulations to show the debris could have floated to Reunion, Dumpark's Laurent Lebreton instead tracked the trajectories of particles.
Instead of looking at where debris from the MH370 search area would have ended up, we are looking at where debris that landed in Reunion Island in July 2015, could have come from.
In that sense we backtrack the trajectories of particles from present to March 8th, 2014 when MH370 disappeared.
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Zoom in on the image below to see the visualisation in more detail
The modelling results show the source distribution of particles reaching the remote island in the Indian Ocean. The MH370 search zone derived from the last known satellite communication, crosses the highest density area for particle origins.
We propose a particle dispersal model to track where the potential MH370 plane debris found in Reunion Island last week could have originated from.
The numerical model is forced by environmental data using publically available real time global HYCOM sea surface current and NCEP/NCAR sea surface wind reanalysis products.
A key parameter for the model is the rate at which the debris is pushed by the oceanic winds. This is called the 'windage' coefficient and is function of debris shape and floatability. We used a rate of 1.5% similarly to the coefficient used for CSIRO's modelling assessment.