Fukushima: “Debris field has spread in length more than 2,000 nautical miles and is more than 1,000 nautical miles wide”
Almost a year after the Japanese Tohoku earthquake and mega-tsunami, the Pacific Ocean is still dealing with the consequences of the catastrophe.
A mass of debris was washed out to sea as floodwaters receded from the land, and some of that wreckage continues to float around the ocean.
Most of it headed eastwards, according to modelling work by the Hawaii-based International Pacific Research Center.
Its staff have given an update to this week’s biennial Ocean Sciences meeting.
“We can only use our model to make projections,” explained International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) scientific computer programmer Jan Hafner.
“So far, the debris field has spread in length more than 2,000 nautical miles, and is more than 1,000 nautical miles wide,” he told BBC News.
That is approaching 4,000km by 2,000km.
Japanese estimates suggested perhaps 20 million tonnes of debris were generated by the earthquake and the incoming rush of water on 11 March last year.
Most would have stayed on land, and a fair proportion pulled out to sea would have sunk rapidly. But it is possible a million tonnes is still floating on the ocean.
So far, the modelling has suggested the bulk of the field is passing to the north of the monument.
“However, the currents have changed and so we expect reports [of debris washing up] from Midway and the Kure Atoll soon,” said Mr Hafner.
The debris may touch the west coast of the US in another year or two, but what does make landfall will be a small percentage of the overall floating mass.
Ultimately, the IPRC work suggests, at least 95% of the debris that has not sunk will move into the North Pacific “Garbage Patch”, a long-lived circulation of floating rubbish trapped by the North Pacific Gyre.
Over time it will decay and sink. The concern for conservationists is that smaller, particularly plastic fragments can be ingested by marine organisms.
purple death..on the move.. through the great garbage dump of the sea and onto california..nothing can stop it..