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When the powerful tsunami that devastated the coastal areas near Sendai, Japan on March 11th receded, it took back with it an estimated 200,000 buildings along with all their belongings, countless cars and whatever else lay in its path. Now scientists are trying to see if they can track the debris, in order to be prepared for them, when they wash up ashore.
The projection of the expected route of the rubbish is the work of Nikolai Maxumenko and Jan Hafner at University of Hawaii's International Pacific Research Center. Basing their predictions on the route followed by drifting buoys previously sent into the ocean for scientific purposes, the scientists believe that the debris has begun moving eastward from Japan's coast and is now heading towards the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. One of five oceanic gyres (large circular areas that comprise of ocean currents that spiral around a central point), it is made up of four large clockwise rotating currents - North Pacific, California, North Equatorial and Kuroshi. Estimated to be about 7 to 9 million square miles, it is also the largest and seems to carry everything in its path.
If the scientists are right, the first debris will show up in about a year on the beaches of the ten small islands and atolls that make up Hawaii's Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
It will take another year before more debris floats onto the shores of the rest of the Hawaiian Islands. The other junk will continue to be pushed on by the currents and is expected to land on North America's West coast in 2014, polluting beaches all the way from Mexico in the South, to Alaska in the North. Whatever remains will end up being accumulated in the infamous North Pacific Garbage Patch, where it is expected to break into tiny pieces.
However, because of the way the currents flow, these tiny pieces will now circulate back and head towards Hawaii, hitting the islands one more time, with even more garbage, before drifting on back to Asia.
As you can imagine, this is not going to be a fun situation when it happens. The garbage in our oceans is bad enough to begin with - The extra load from the tsunami has just added to the woes and scientists are trying to get prepared to tackle it the best they can, when the situation occurs.
Resources: grindtv.com, physorg.com