Ocean path of tsunami debris predicted

April 6, 2011 at 9:30 PM
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MANOA, Hawaii, April 6 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they have created a computer model to predict where tons of debris created by the tsunami in Japan will drift in the Pacific Ocean.

Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner at the International Pacific Research Center of the University of Hawaii at Manoa developed the model based on the behavior of drifting buoys deployed for years in the ocean for scientific research, a university release reported Wednesday.

Maximenko and Hafner say in two years the Hawaiian Islands will begin to see some of the debris and in three years the debris plume will reach the west coast of North America, leaving debris on beaches in California, British Columbia, Alaska and Baja California.

The debris will then drift into the infamous North Pacific Garbage Patch, the researchers say, where it will circulate as it breaks into smaller and smaller pieces.

In five years, they say, Hawaiian shores can expect to see another barrage, even stronger and longer-lasting than the first one since much of the debris leaving the North Pacific Garbage Patch ends up on Hawaii's reefs and beaches.

These model projections can help guide cleanup and tracking operations, the researchers say.

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