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20 Million Tons of Japanese Debris Spotted En Route to Hawaii

Posted By Timon Singh On October 24, 2011 @ 7:37 pm In News,Recycled Materials,Renewable Energy | 1 Comment

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When the tsunami struck Japan earlier in the year, the country suffered a devastating loss of life and a nuclear meltdown. However it seems like it will not be the only country affected by the disaster. In July, we reported how debris from the coastline was swept into the ocean and was being carried by ocean currents towards Hawaii [1]. We first learned that the debris would hit the west coast of North America by 2014, but scientists now believe that the 20 MILLION TONS of rubbish could hit sooner [2].

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Last month, a Russian ship’s crew spotted the debris cloud, which as well as carrying cars, fridges and other household goods contains a 20ft long fishing boat, passing the Midway Islands. It was originally estimated that the debris wouldn’t reach the islands until winter.

A team from the International Pacific Research Center of the University of Hawaii at Manoa has been studying the patterns of debris flow [3] and believe that the wreckage could hit Hawaii sooner next year than previous thought. The debris cloud is still expected to hit the entire west  coast of North America by 2014, but it is then expected to ‘bounce back’ and hit Hawaii again in 2016 devastating natural habitats for a second time.

“We have a rough estimate of 5 to 20 million tons of debris coming from Japan,” University of Hawaii researcher Jan Hafner told press [2]. “(The crew) saw some pieces of furniture, some appliances, anything that can float – and they picked up a fishing boat.”

“A TV set, fridge and a couple of other home appliances were also spotted,” Hafner added. “(It is) this lighter debris which is moving quicker than expected. We don’t want to create a panic, but it’s good to know it’s coming.”

We guess if it gives Hawaii’s environmental groups more time to mobilize, then it is a good thing, but it is clear that the environmental impact of the debris cloud is set to be detrimental to the island’s ecosystems.

via The Daily Mail [2]

Images: DVIDSHUB [4]/Wikimedia Commons


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URL to article: http://inhabitat.com/20-million-tonnes-of-japanese-debris-spotted-en-route-to-hawaii/

URLs in this post:

[1] carried by ocean currents towards Hawaii: http://inhabitat.com/researchers-say-garbage-island-of-japan-tsunami-debris-will-reach-hawaii-beaches-in-one-year/

[2] 20 MILLION TONS of rubbish could hit sooner: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2052576/Japan-earthquake-tsunami-20m-tons-debris-closing-Hawaii.html

[3] patterns of debris flow: http://inhabitat.com../inhabitat-sets-sail-with-the-5-gyres-project-to-explore-plastic-pollution-in-chile/

[4] DVIDSHUB: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dvids/

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