Aircraft debris MH370 makes Northern part of the search area more likely

Published: 31 July 2015

Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 went missing on 8 March 2014. A multinational search effort began soon after and it is still in progress. The primary focus has been on a vast area west of Australia. On the basis of the aircraft debris that was found on 29 July on the island of Réunion, hydrodynamic experts of Deltares produced a simulation model that indicates that the northern part of the search is now a more likely source of the debris.

About the model

Deltares experts Maarten van Ormondt and Fedor Baart used a particle tracking routine to compute the movement of debris from different locations in the search area. The calculation was made using surface currents (assuming that they are the most relevant for the floating debris) from the global HYCOM model. The results show how debris moves with the counter-clockwise gyre in the Southern Indian Ocean and quickly disperses over large areas. Particles released in the northern section of the search area arrive at the African coast first within a year of the release time. Those released in the southern section do not travel as far and do not make it to Africa within the simulation period.

Maarten van Ormondt (a Deltares hydrodynamic expert): ‘The model shows us that the ocean currents are able to carry the debris from the search area west of Australia to Réunion. It also suggests that it is more likely that the debris originates from the northern section of the search area than from the southern part.”

Further research

Further research will be necessary to verify the assumptions used in this model.

The results of our investigation do not rule out any location for the MH370 crash. It can therefore not be concluded that the current search operation focuses on the wrong area.