Professor Predicted This Debris Scenario Last Year
And Charitha Pattiaratchi may be right
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2015 7:07 AM CDT
In this photo from Wednesday, French police officers carry a piece of debris from a plane in Saint-Andre, Reunion Island.   (AP Photo/Lucas Marie)

(Newser) – While the world reels at news that debris washed ashore on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean may be from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, there's one person who's not surprised. Charitha Pattiaratchi, an oceanography professor at the University of Western Australia, created models last year that showed how currents in the Indian Ocean could carry debris from the plane west toward Madagascar within 18 months of a crash—which would have placed any debris right near Reunion Island at this point in the timeline, NBC News reports. "It makes sense based on some of the [modeling] we did 12 months ago, that some time [within] 18 to 24 months after [the crash] this could be the area the debris would have ended up in," he tells the Guardian.

A map that Pattiaratchi provided to Business Insider illustrates the spread of the debris over different time periods, from zero to six months after the crash to 18 to 24 months after, and Reunion Island sits squarely as the end destination in the 18-to-24-month range. Meanwhile, another Australian oceanographer tells the New York Times that even if the debris proves to be from Flight 370, using that info to try to backtrack along ocean currents to find the bulk of the wreckage would, as the paper puts it, "be akin to using modeling of big-city crowd flows to try to predict the travels of a random person encountered on the street. In short, next to impossible."