Hurricane Otis leaves Large Amounts of Debris in Acapulco Coast

On the 25th of October, Hurricane Otis made landfall in the Mexican state of Guerrero, causing intense damage and likely extensive debris floating along the coast of Acapulco as detected by AIR Centre’s POS2IDON satellite tool.

The category 5 hurricane caused intense flooding and destruction (1) in Acapulco, a city that did not have enough time to prepare, due to the sudden increase in storm intensity. Besides wrecking structures and causing mudslides, Hurricane Otis also contributed to a major accumulation of debris along the beaches (1,2) and likely floating in the ocean where it represents a hazard to fisheries, navigation and the ecosystem. Application of the classification algorithm of the AIR Centre’s POS2IDON tool (3) on the satellite image of Sentinel-2, on the 28th of October, supports this possibility, showing several filament-like structures that were classified as accumulation zones of marine debris, most probably including large plastic quantities (highlighted in red).

Satellite-detected marine debris on Sentinel-2 images off the coast of Acapulco, might contain plastic litter together with other debris.

In a region already struggling with plastic pollution on its shores (4, 5), these extreme weather events and inadequate waste management can result in a great input of debris, in particular plastics, into the ocean, which can affect human activities and marine biodiversity.

This mapping of floating marine debris, using satellite images, provides key information for post-disaster operational monitoring systems. It can help guide emergency responses and clean-up operations, detect and track the movement of hazardous materials, and understand the amount and fate of the debris, namely plastics, entering the ocean in the aftermath of such destructive events.


3 A. Valente, E. Castanho, A. Giusti, J. Pinelo and P. Silva, “An Open-Source Data Pipeline Framework to Detect Floating Marine Plastic Litter Using Sentinel-2 Imagery and Machine Learning,” IGARSS 2023 – 2023 IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium, Pasadena, CA, USA, 2023, pp. 4108-4111, doi: 10.1109/IGARSS52108.2023.10281415