Millions of Tons of Tsunami Refuse Could Reach U.S. Coast

Author: Michelle Blowers
Published: October 25, 2011 at 10:37 pm
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Debris Plume stretches for miles. Image: US NavyMillions 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.

Projected location of debris field Mar 2014. Image: JAMSTEC, IPRS, NOAA, NASAThe 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.

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Article Author: Michelle Blowers

Michelle Blowers is a science, technology and Linux enthusiast. She is a successful website designer and former network administrator and computer instructor.

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