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LocalTsunami Debris

June 1, 2011

The giant tsunami that came to shore after the March 11 earthquake in Japan destroyed entire cities and swept more than 200,000 buildings out to sea. Videos of the event show cars, boats, trucks, entire houses, and many personal and household items drifting on the water. All of this has come together to make a sort of debris “soup.” Reports indicate the debris mass is 500 miles long. Pacific Ocean currents are carrying it towards the western coast of the U.S. In the next three years, material will land on Washington beaches.

Some of the debris will come ashore while the rest will stay in the ocean. This will depend on how well the material floats and whether it can be pushed along by the wind. The debris, traveling a circulating ocean current, will land on beaches from California to Alaska. The remaining debris may then circle around to Hawaii and back to Asia. The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet is keeping an eye on the debris. Materials such as wood and paper will eventually break up and sink. But Navy personnel are con­cerned about the large chunks of metal and wood in the ocean. These could damage boats and ships.

The biggest problem, however, is plastic. It causes pollu­tion and harm to marine life because this type of debris does not break down. It will remain floating in small pieces in the ocean. It will probably end up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a large area of marine pollution of great concern to scientists.


Published June 2011

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