Japan Tsunami Debris Floats Toward North America
Here's another aftershock of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last March. Millions of tons of debris from near total destruction were washed out to sea when the tsunami subsided and tides returned to normal.
Much of the debris sank to the ocean floor, but between one and two million tons of debris are still floating in the Pacific. Worse, it's drifting eastward toward North America, and a lot of it is going to wash up on a lot of shorelines over the next two years.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the first bits of the debris -- including full size houses like the one in this U.S. Navy photo -- are expected to make landfall this coming winter on small atolls northwest of Hawaii. Other pieces should reach the coasts of Oregon, Washington state, Alaska and Canada between March 2013 and March 2014.
The debris clumped together when it first washed into the ocean, but it has since dispersed outward halfway across the Pacific, making it difficult to locate. This makes it hard for scientists to tell what types of debris are still afloat and how much of it will make its way toward U.S. coasts.
So far, no debris confirmed to be from the tsunami has landed in the U.S., but it's on its way and there doesn't seem to be anything anyone can do to stop it.
NOAA experts say even though a lot of the debris came from an area near a nuclear power plant that suffered massive damage, there is little chance that any debris is contaminated by radiation. They say that's because the receding tsunami dragged the debris out to sea before the power plant suffered multiple breakdowns and meltdowns.
The NOAA website has a video with more information about the debris, and what it means for North America.