UH Researcher Predicts Tsunami Debris Coming Sooner To Hawaii

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Oct 18 2011 08:05:54 PM HST
Updated On: Oct 18 2011 10:26:57 PM HST
HONOLULU -

It could be the first official report of tsunami debris from Japan nearing Hawaii.

A new report coming from a Russian ship have UH researchers changing their predictions.   Since the March 11th earthquake and tsunami, researchers have been predicting it would take about two years for the debris from Japan to hit Hawaii's west-facing beaches.

?We have a rough estimate of 5 to 20 million tons of debris coming from Japan,? said UH computer programming researcher Jan Hafner.   An average of 10 million tons of debris, the same amount released into the north Pacific basin in one year, was dislodged and set adrift in one day.

?Hawaii is just in the path,? said Hafner.   Since the disaster, Hafner has been watching and calculating that wave of debris on a specialized computer program that follows and analyzes the currents.

In September, he got a chance to meet with Russian senior researcher Nikolai Maximenko and his crew on the STS Pallada.

The crew was here training on ocean currents, docked in Honolulu, and on their way back home.

Hafner knew they could help.

Their path back to Russia crossed exactly across the projected field of the debris.   Soon after passing the Midway Islands on Sept. 22, they hit the edge of the tsunami debris.   ?They saw some pieces of furniture, some appliances, anything that can float, and they picked up a fishing boat,? said Hafner.   It was a 20-foot fishing boat with the word "Fukushima" on it.   ?That's actually our first confirmed report of tsunami debris,? said Hafner.   There was more news that would force Hafner to change his predictions.

The crew hit lighter debris, plastic, foam, and other stuff easily carried by currents and wind, even sooner.   ?We projected it would hit Midway in spring of next year, but based on the Pallada finding, the debris seems to be moving faster,? he said.   ?We don't want to create a panic, but it?s good to know it?s coming,? he said.

Hafner and UH researchers predict the first wave of tsunami debris will hit Midway Atoll by this winter, then Hawaii in less than 2 years.

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