3-D model reveals how invisible waves move materials within aquatic ecosystems

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by Tyler O'Neal, 2 years ago
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Garbage, nutrients and tiny animals are pushed around, suspended in the world’s oceans by waves invisible to the naked eye according to a new 3-D model developed by mathematicians at the University of Waterloo.

David Deepwell, a graduate student, and Professor Marek Stastna in Waterloo’s Faculty of Math have created a 3-D simulation that showcases how materials such phytoplankton, contaminants, and nutrients move within aquatic ecosystems via underwater bulges called mode-2 internal waves.

The simulation can help researchers understand how internal waves can carry materials over long distances. Their model was presented in the American Institute of Physics’ journal Physics of Fluids.

In the simulation, fluids of different densities are layered like the layers of a cake, creating an environment similar to that found in large aquatic bodies such as oceans and lakes. A middle layer of fluid, known as a pycnocline, over which the layers are closely packed together is created, and it is in this layer that materials tend to be caught.

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