(USA)

A new technology developed at the University of Miami (UM) will help rescue teams and environmentalists react more effectively to marine pollution caused by oil spills and plastic waste.

Researchers from UM’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science used an optical technique to measure currents near the sea’s surface, which carry these types of pollutants.

“The health and economic impacts of spilled oil and marine debris have the potential to be profoundly negative. Improving our ability to measure near-surface ocean currents can aid in disaster response and provides for greater context in understanding the dynamics of marine pollutant transport,” said UM Rosenstiel School postdoctoral researcher Nathan Laxague, and lead author of the study.

The capability to gauge patterns from data gathered just centimetres from the surface is transformative.

“This slice of the water column is important because it is where oil, larvae and other drifting floating objects are, and yet, until now, scientists had no good way to measure it using existing technologies,” added UM Rosenstiel School Ocean Science Professor Brian Haus, a co-author of the study.

The report was published in Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology.