The horrific Tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011 will have some pretty unpleasant after shocks on shorelines around the Pacific Ocean in the years to come.
According to NOAA the tons of debris that where sucked up by the massive tsunami made their way back into the ocean as the wave receded.
Masses of debris included cats, dogs, houses, boats, cars, trucks, buoys and anything that you could imagine. Most of the heavier debris is not likely to make it to Pacific shore lines, but the lighter weight materials are expected to start surfacing with the next few years.
A conservative estimate puts the mass of the “Tsunami junk” at a mere 1.5 million tons.
As the tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011 receded from land, it washed much of what was in the inundation zone into the ocean.
Heavier materials sank closer to shore, while buoyant materials went on to make up the debris fields captured by satellite imagery and aerial photos of the waters surrounding Japan. Today, debris fields are no longer visible. Winds and ocean currents scattered items in the massive North Pacific Ocean, and scientists predict some of the debris may reach U.S. and Canadian coasts over the next several years.
How much debris is out there? Is there a debris field?
The Japanese government estimated that the tsunami swept about 5 million tons of debris into the ocean, but that 70 percent sank off shore, leaving 1.5 million tons floating. There no estimate of how much debris is still floating today.
We do know that the debris is no longer in a “debris field.” Rather, there are many items scattered across a large area of the North Pacific.
Immediately after the event, satellite sensors focused on the area around Japan picked up tsunami debris, but by April 14, 2011, the debris had dispersed to a point where the sensors could no longer detect it. This doesn’t mean it has vanished – we just can’t see it with lower resolution satellites, making it very difficult to locate.