Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tsunami Trash On Course for US Land Fall

A couple of different reports are out on the expected landfall of trash from the Japanese tsunami, that I discussed in back in April.  First, a brief report from a TV station in Chicago (linked on Drudge) that reports that the West Coast "Trash Fall" may occur ahead of schedule:
The devastating tsunami that hit Japan in March created lasting images of houses, boats, cars and entire neighborhoods pulled out to sea. It also caused a massive sea of debris -- up to 20 million tons of it, all of it potentially toxic -- in an area estimated to be twice the size of Texas.

Now, seven months later, that floating debris is on a direct collision course with the Pacific Coast of the United States -- and it might be coming sooner than expected.

“Across the wide Pacific, the drift rate is about five to 10 miles per day,” oceanographer Curt Ebbesmeyer told ABC News.
While anything may be "potentially toxic", most of the debris is just wood from building and trees, and much of that is unlikely to survive waterlogging, and actually reach the West Coast.

A much more thorough, and somewhat less alarmist report is found in an Alaskan site:
Using maps produced by scientists at the International Pacific Research Center of the University of Hawaii, the crew and student cadets aboard the STS Pallada began finding material from the tsunami on Sept. 22, soon after they cruised past Midway Islands, the uninhabited outpost to the Hawaiian archipeligo.

"We picked up on board the Japanese fishing boat," wrote Natalia Borodina, the Pallada's information and education mate, in this story. "At the approaches to the mentioned position (maybe 10 – 15 minutes before) we also sighted a TV set, fridge and a couple of other home appliances."
It's clear that the two reports are based on the same ships observations.  Go to this site and view the slideshow...
The reports from Pallada, coming six months after the March 11 quake, offered a reality check to a sophisticated computer model that deployed ocean current data and previous tracking of debris to predict where the tsunami material might go and when it might arrive.

"For nearly half a year, senior researcher Nikolai Maximenko and computer programmer Jan Hafnerstory had only their state-of-the-art -- but still untested -- computer model of currents to speculate," explained thisfrom the research center. "Now sightings of the debris are reported from places where the model predicted."

The data will let Maximenko and Hafner fine-tune their estimates of when the material will begin washing ashore in the far-flung Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument -- the vast marine refuge that includes 10 protected islands and atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

"The first landfall on Midway Islands is anticipated this winter," the research center said here. "What misses Midway will continue towards the main Hawaiian Islands and the North American West Coast."
 There is one bit of good news (not that I would have expected otherwise):
Since the Japanese disaster had triggered explosions at three nuclear reactors when cooling systems failed, the Pallada crew also began checking the material for radiation.

"Radioactivity level -- normal," Borodina reported. "We've measured it with the Geiger counter."

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