File photo: The shadow of a Royal New Zealand Air Force maritime search aircraft can be seen on low-level clouds as it flies over the southern Indian Ocean looking for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. REUTERS/Rob Griffith Malaysian, Australian and Chinese officials recently announced that they soon would suspend the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, once they've exhausted a roughly 75,000-square-mile search zone. But conspiracy theories continue to swirl around what happened to the jet,, which vanished from radar as it traveled between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing back in March 2014 with 239 passengers and crew aboard.
And now, a newly-published study by Italian researchers suggests that the plane may have crashed as much as 300 miles north of the roughly 75,000-square mile zone where the search took place.
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In the study, published in July 27 in the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, researchers used the location of the few pieces of wreckage that have been found -- small piece of the right wing that was found on the Indian Ocean island of Réunion, and other pieces that washed ashore in Mozambique, South Africa and on Rodrigues Island.
They plugged that information into a computer simulation based on high-resolution oceanographic and meteorological data, and used it to predict how winds and ocean currents would distribute the wreckage.
The researchers concluded that the main wreckage is likely to be in an area of the Indian Ocean between 28°S and 35°S . While some of the current underwater search area lies between 32°S and 35°S, it also raises the possibility that the downed airliner could also be further north than where authorities are currently searching.
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"Our result is the first to calculate the movement of the debris that best agrees with all five of the currently confirmed discoveries. This should make it the most accurate prediction," Eric Jansen, a researcher at the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change in Italy and lead-author of the study, said in a press release.
It's not yet clear whether the study will persuade the international group of searchers to extend their search. Government officials from the three countries have indicated that they would do only if "credible new information" emerges to pinpoint the aircraft's location.
The study also indicates that besides the vicinity of the crash site, the most probable locations to discover additional washed-up debris are the African mainland countries of Tanzania and Mozambique, as well as the islands of Madagascar, Réunion, Mauritius and the Comoros.
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