Tsunami Wreckage Headed For Great Pacific Garbage Patch

It’s been over a year since the earthquake and tsunami that triggered a nuclear meltdown in Japan. As the thousands of affected Japanese struggle to put the disaster behind them, physical evidence of its destruction will soon enter a never ending vortex of shame.

Scientists recently reported that an estimated 1.5 million tons of floating debris, washed into the ocean by the tsunami, is still drifting on the Pacific Ocean, and is likely destined to bob and swirl for many years in the North Pacific Gyre’s floating garbage dump.

To better predict the ultimate home of the ocean wreckage, researchers at University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) used the Surface Currents from Diagnostic (SCUD) model to simulate where and how the debris would disperse. The model allowed them to produce the animated map you see below. Orange and red shaded areas represent parcels of water with a high probably of containing floating debris. The deeper the red color, the higher the likely concentration. The debris field stretches roughly 5,000 kilometers by 2,000 kilometers across the North Pacific.

Researchers say the debris was initially carried by the potent Kuroshio Current, which whips past eastern Japan much like the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic. The Kuroshio carries surface waters northeast, before eventually turning east in the Kuroshio Extension and then the North Pacific Current.

As of April 3, 2012, there had been very few reports of debris at Midway Island and Kure Atoll. North winds have been minimal in recent months, and ocean currents have favored keeping the debris from the island. But those currents may be shifting, Hafner noted, and debris should eventually wash up with greater frequency, noted Jan Hafner of the IPRC.

The research team expects debris to reach the west coast of North America within a year or two, while much of it is likely to end up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Related Reading:

Update On The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (Yes, It’s Still There)

10 Most Common Types Of Ocean Trash

Tsunami Recovery Funds Subsidize Japanese Whale Hunt

h/t Mojo

Image via Thinkstock


Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago


Margie B.
Past Member 6 years ago

This is a total shame, no one wants to get together to clean this up... No wonder Mother Nature is soooooo pissed off !!!

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

How radioactive is that trash from the tsunami that hit Japan?

Bambi G.
Bambi G6 years ago

This could be your back yard. What we do effects the planet. Think outside your box. We all need to take responsiblity & pick up after ourself. Thanks for the reminder.

Eva M.
Eva M6 years ago

This is, yet again, another unfortunate situation, but there is something that can be done.
With all the huge fisheries out there on the ocean, laying their huge nets to catch depleting fish source, why can't they do some good for the environment for a change, like scooping up all this debris that's floating on the surface.
The world watched with compassion this devastating event and took action with donated contributions. Is the world going to watch the continued effects of this devastation "float by"? I certainly hope not. Take positive action and save Mother Earth!

Richard K.
Richard K6 years ago

Problem is is that the North Pacific Coast is going to be trashed beginning in about October this year and there are currently no plans to collect/sort/dispose of the mess. Also expect shoes that could contain feet. Many cameras will probably wash up which could contain downloadable images. Glass floats too that were washed from the beaches from they were disposed after the fishing industry converted to plastic floats.

Gale Thomasson
Gale T6 years ago

Well ya know it was gonna go some where

Colum N.
Colum N6 years ago

We are slowly turning the WHOLE ocean into a garbage tip.

It is totally unacceptable!

Mercedes Lackey
Mercedes Lackey6 years ago

Uh, Pamela H, you are confusing individual corporations with the nation they reside in. "Japan" does not have a huge whaling fleet. Individual corporations have huge whaling fleets. Your comment makes about as much sense as saying "The US should pay for the damage that Chevron did by dumping all that toxic waste in South America. After all, they can pay for huge oil refineries, they can afford to pay for cleaning up the mess."

Not a fan of whaling fleets, oil companies, or most US policies, but just pointing out you need to learn that a corporation and a country are not (yet) the same thing.

Michael M.
Michael M6 years ago

Man, coastal cleanup day is really going to be a pain in the rear this year!