Floating Debris From Japan’s Tsunami Headed for U.S.

Posted: November 6, 2013

By: Breanna Draxler [Discover]

The devastating tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011 caused a huge amount of local destruction, including damaged homes and radioactive water leaks, which has persisted to this day. But it also has affected areas far from that initial site—most prominently, by creating over a million tons of debris that are still floating across the Pacific Ocean toward North America.

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have been modeling the slow creep of this stuff across the ocean since 2011. Their initial computer model relied mainly on data about oceanic currents, but the latest iteration also takes into account wind speed and how wind interacts with materials differently, depending on how they float on the water.

An updated NOAA report released last week shows a floating debris field the size of Texas that’s headed toward the U.S., along with other debris dispersed throughout the ocean.

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