Japan: Scientists at the University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) developed a tool, SCUD (Surface Currents from Diagnostic), to predict ocean currents to estimate the path of debris from the devastating Tohoku Tsunami that struck the northeast coast of Japan in March 2011.
The SCUD model has been developed by Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner of IPRC. The researchers used actual satellite data on sea surface height and on ocean surface winds to help build their animated model, as well as data from scientific drifting buoy networks and reports of debris sightings. They began by placing 678,000 “tracers” along Japan’s northeastern coast, with distribution based on population density and how developed the area was. Deeper colours represent higher levels of likely debris concentration.
It’s estimated that some debris should reach the west coast of North America “within a year or two”, but most is expected to end up in what is known as “the garbage patch” – a debris field in the middle of the North Pacific Gyre.
A 150-foot unmanned Japanese fishing vessel has recently been spotted off the coast of British Columbia, while other debris protruding above the water line has reportedly reached Washington and Hawaii, carried along hastily by the wind.