Simulations by oceanographers from Germany have provided further insight into the possible location of the crash site of missing flight MH370. For the past 16 months, the extensive search in the Southern Indian Ocean has been underway, with no conclusive findings to date.
After a piece of debris was discovered a few weeks ago on the island of La Reunion, Dr. Jonathan Durgadoo and Prof. Dr. Arne Biastoch from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel used a high-resolution ocean model assimilated with observational data for their drift analyses to determine the possible origin of the flaperon, the debris that is very likely to belong to the missing Boeing. The results of their recently completed model simulations show that the debris found on La Reunion probably originates from the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean. However, the researchers concede that the uncertainties are still quite large.
Despite an intensive international search in the suspected crash area in the eastern Indian Ocean off the coast of Australia, no other piece of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 has been found. The discovery of the flaperon at the end of July 2015 several thousands of kilometres brought renewed hope for the ongoing search.
Immediately after the discovery, Kiel oceanographers started to track back the possible drift of the flaperon in order further narrow down the area of the crash: “Of course it does not make much sense just to track only a single particle within the model,” Dr. Durgadoo explains.
“We have traced back almost two million ‘virtual’ particles over a period of 16 months,” Durgadoo said. “For each month back, we subsequently calculated the probable region of the particles positions.”
From this exercise, a very large region in the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean emerged as the most likely area. It extends from the western coasts of Sumatra and Java, about 6,000 kilometers from La Reunion. “Qualitatively, the results correspond to my initial estimates, they are now confirmed by the complex flow analysis”, says Professor Biastoch.
In addition, all particles originate from a region equatorward of 30°S, the northernmost part of the current search area. “Our findings show that the ongoing search might be too far south at the moment,” Dr. Durgadoo commented. “Finding more pieces of MH370 debris would be necessary in order to make more precise statements,” Professor Biastoch summarises.
In the coming weeks, in order to further refine their statements, the Kiel researchers want to consider other processes, such as wind and waves, which are possibly also relevant for the drifting.
Early last month, the CSIRO released its own oceanographic modelling, which showed how the flaperon might have drifted from the suspected crash site off the coast of Australia across the Indian Ocean to La Reunion.