March 16, 2012

Tsunami Debris

Debris from last year's disaster is making its way across the ocean.

Scott: From automobiles to fishing boats, the tsunami swept an estimated 4 to 8 million of tons of debris into the Pacific. Much of it sank close to the Japanese coast but oceanographers estimate 1 to 2 million tons was washed out to sea. Gathered in one place, it is enough trash to cover 500 football fields six feet deep. Now it is being carried by ocean currents.

“It’s not a floating mass of trash or debris, I should say, but rather it is dispersed over a large region of the Pacific Ocean.”

Scott: Check out this computer model. On the left is Japan. You can see the widening area where the debris is now likely to be found, spread along a path a thousand miles wide and two thousand miles long and headed toward the United States.

“What we do not know is exactly when that debris will make landfall, how much of that debris will make landfall and largely what is the composition of that debris that will make landfall.”

Scott: Experts say the debris could arrive in Hawaii this year and by next year, reach the coasts of Washington and Oregon. As much as 100,000 tons of debris could wash up on U.S. shores. But that is only about 5% of what is floating out there.

“Good news is the amount of debris that is actually going to impact the coastline is only a small fraction.”

Scott: What doesn’t wash ashore will become trapped in the middle of the ocean. It is there that the remnants of the tragedy in Japan could remain floating for years to come.

Scott Evans, Channel One News.


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