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A team of volunteers and experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hazardous Materials Division began releasing drift cards off Barber’s Point today as part of a two year study of the movement of surface currents off the Hawaiian Islands. The purpose of the study is to learn where floating pollutants might go if released from the south shore of Oahu. NOAA is an agency of the Commerce Department.
Made out of light wood and covered with non-toxic paint, the 4x6-inch cards are designed to biodegrade within a few months. NOAA is asking the public to help by reporting the date and location of the cards when they float ashore. Instructions and contact information are printed on the cards.
“The public can play an important role by providing information where currently little exists,“ said Glen Watabayashi, oceanographer with the Hazards Materials Division in Seattle. “The data will help scientists understand how variable nearshore currents and winds can disperse floating materials. With the help of public volunteers, using drift cards is an inexpensive way to gather valuable information.”
The drift cards will be released approximately once a month rather than all at once to accommodate seasonal changes in wind speeds and current directions. About 100 cards will be released each month or 2400 over the two year period.
Multiple cards found at a particular location may indicate that the area is a natural collection point -- a coastal location where floating materials such as driftwood, Styrofoam products, dead seabirds, fish, and marine mammals, and other debris naturally gather. If a collection beach is identified, additional cards will be released and local residents will be contacted to verify the claim.
Watabayashi said the study will help determine where future research should be directed. “The results will be used by academia, private industry, government, conservation groups, and others for various purposes. City managers, for instance, might use the information to aid in wastewater management decisions. Biologists might use it to characterize larval transport patterns which help identify habitat areas,” added Watabayashi. The data may also be used to verify trajectory models and track derelect fishing gear.
The study is a collaborative effort with the Clean Island Council Spill Response Cooperative, Chevron, Tesoro, U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA National Weather Service, and NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program.
NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.
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