Predicting the dispersion and beaching of floating plastics from the 2019 MSC Zoe accident in the North Sea using numerical simulations
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In the night of the 1st to 2nd of January 2019, 342 containers fell of the ship the MSC Zoe, north of the Dutch Wadden Islands. The cargo of the ship contained small plastics like HDPE-granulates and pellets, but also larger buoyant plastic, which ended up in the North Sea. To study the effects of this huge environmental disaster on the ecosystem and to clean up the debris, we need to know how all this plastic will disperse through the North Sea and where it will end up. To predict this we used a numerical model which simulated particles, like HDPE-granulates and pellets. We ran simulations in the first two months of 2019 and additionally in 2016, 2017 and 2018 to make a comparison and better prediction. The effects of the currents, tides, Stokes drift and wind drag of $2.5$\% on the particles were studied. To incorporate these processes we used data made available by CMEMS and data from ERA5. Futhermore, the results of 2019 are compared to observations of the HDPE-granulates from waddenplastic.nl. Sinking of particles was not included in our model, but we shortly review the difference it would make in our results. The prediction we draw from our results is that the plastic of the MSC Zoe will mainly be transported along the coasts of Germany and Denmark to Skagerrak. HDPE-granulates and pellets will beach in the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark or end up at the bottom of the German Bight or Skagerrak. Larger plastics have a higher probability to beach in Sweden or Norway and could also end up on the bottom of Skagerrak.