HONOLULU — Up to 20 million tons of tsunami debris floating from Japan could arrive on Hawaii’s shores by early 2013, before reaching the West Coast, according to estimates by University of Hawaii scientists.
A Russian training ship spotted the junk – including a refrigerator, a television locate and other appliances – in an area of the Pacific Ocean where the scientists from the university’s International Pacific Research Center predicted it would be. The largest proof that the debris is from the Japanese tsunami is a fishing boat that’s been traced to the Fukushima Prefecture, the area toughest hit by the March 11 disaster. Jan Hafner, a scientific machine programmer, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that researchers’ projections exhibit the debris would reach the coasts of Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Canada encircling 2014.
They estimate the debris field is spread outside across an area that’s roughly 2,000 miles extended and 1,000 miles wide located between Japan and Midway Atoll, where pieces could wash up in January. Just how much has already sunk and what part is still floating is unknown.
“It’s a common misconception it’s like one mat that you could walk on,” he said.
Hafner and the principal researcher in the project, oceanographer Nikolai Maximenko, have been researching surface ocean currents since 2009. When the Japan earthquake and tsunamis struck, they applied their research to the rubble sucked into the Pacific Ocean from Japan. They used machine models to track its path, however until the Russian ship STS Pallada sailing from Honolulu contacted them at the end month, they had no administer observation of the massive debris field.
“From a scientific mark of view, it was confirmation that our research was doing something fair,” Hafner said. “It was huge news for us. However it was mixed feelings since you can’t be excited about something as tragic as a tsunami.”
The magnitude-9.0 earthquake produced the sort of devastation Japan hadn’t seen since Earth War II, leaving more than 21,000 dead or injured. The tsunami that followed engulfed the northeast and wiped outside entire towns.
The waves inundated the Fukushima plant, triggering the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. However, it’s highly unlikely the tsunami-generated debris would be contaminated with radioactive material, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine debris program. NOAA is also gathering data about debris sightings.
After news of the Russian ship’s findings, the scientists have been receiving calls from media worldwide.
The scientists desire boaters venturing in the area of the debris to send them details about what they see. Researchers desire to know details such as GPS position, age, weather and descriptions of the items.
“We are trying to get across our message that it is coming and it’s about age to commence plotting some action,” Hafner said.
DOWNLOAD: Tommy John Surgery