Scientists track debris from 3-year-old Japan tsunami

Published On: Mar 11 2014 07:19:34 PM HST   Updated On: Mar 11 2014 08:24:14 PM HST

Scientists said there's plenty of debris still out there from the tsunami that struck Japan three years ago. The problem is you just can't see it.

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More than one year after a devastating tsunami struck, a blue bin found near Rabbit Island marked the first tsunami debris to arrive on the islands.

Nikolai Maximenko and his team from the International Pacific Research Center developed a model to track the tsunami debris. He said lighter objects driven by the wind like the blue bin were the first to reach Hawaii.

"In 2012 the front edge of the tsunami recirculated south the California current and pushed by trade winds to Hawaii," Maximenko said.

In 2013, a wave of heavier objects like boats washed ashore including a 20-foot skiff near Kawela Bay.

Some of the heaviest debris like large lumber is now making it to the shorelines.

"Currently, most of the reports that we're receiving are about wood from broken Japanese houses, poles -- electrical and telephone poles -- and broken trees," Maximenko said.

Maximenko said because the wood is so heavy, most of the pieces are still suspended in the middle of the ocean.

"We estimate there may be up to 1 million beams and logs, poles, still floating in the ocean," Maximenko said.

After the wave of wood, scientists said what washes shore will be smaller and smaller as it gets worn down by wind, waves and currents. The debris could break down to microparticles and microplastics which could be detrimental to sea life.

"These tiny particles are mistaken for food and ingested by ocean life and seabirds," Maximenko said. "Virtually every seabird in the Pacific Ocean had some particles in their guts."

The Department of Land and Natural Resources reported that it has 17 confirmed reports of tsunami debris.


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