Monday, October 31, 2011

Millions of Tons of Tsunami Refuse Could Reach US Coast

 First Published as "Millions of Tons of Tsunami Refuse Could Reach US Coast" on Technorati

Millions of tons of debris from the massive 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in March, 2011 is making its way across the Pacific Ocean and will  eventually reach the west coast of the United States.

Following the record quake, crushing tsunami waves reached 133 ft (40.5 meters) in height and traveled up to six miles (10 km) inland. Nearly twenty thousand people were killed or have gone missing.
When the massive waves retreated, they pulled out to sea millions of tons of demolished houses, cars, furniture and the remnants of thousands of lives. Some of these items will sink as they move across the ocean, but many will not.

A staggering five to twenty million tons of refuse, containing everything from house parts, appliances and the minutia of peoples' lives will likely begin to arrive at Midway Islands, which lies between Japan and Hawaii, sometime this winter. The debris plume is estimated to be two thousand miles long and a thousand miles long.

Debris Plume image: US Navy
The mass of floating refuse will reach Hawaii in the winter or spring of 2013 and finally wash ashore in 2014 along the beaches of North America's west coast from British Columbia and Alaska through Washington, Oregon and California. It is not expected to contain radioactive material.

This prediction is the result of a model ( .pdf) developed by Nikolai Maximenko, a senior researcher at the International Pacific Research Center in Hawaii. He studied thirty years of ocean currents using data from thousands of buoys dotting the ocean. Recently a Russian ship passing between Honolulu and Vladivostock, Russia spotted the Japanese debris field just where Maximenko's model predicted it would be.  You can view an animation of the projected path here.

Whatever remains of this giant plume of trash and debris will eventually make its' way to the infamous 'North Pacific Garbage Patch' a giant vortex of mostly chemical and plastic garbage from the US and Japan which accumulates and is trapped by ocean currents in a huge area of the Pacific Ocean.

This marine garbage collection point was predicted in 1988 by NOAA and verified in 1997. Estimates of size vary greatly but range from  270,000 sq mi (700,000 square kilometres) to more than 5,800,000 sq mi (15,000,000 square kilometers). There is also a garbage patch accumulating in the Atlantic.

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