More than 1 million tons of debris from Japan’s 2011 tsunami that remain off the U.S. Pacific Northwest coast is expected to continue moving slowly toward shore, thanks to a change in wave patterns and other oceanic conditions, according to scientists monitoring the debris.
Sam Chan, an aquatic invasive species expert with Oregon State University Extension and Oregon Sea Grant, told KGW, an NBC affiliate in Oregon, that more items were likely to drift closer to shore and onto beaches from Alaska to California this summer.
The debris includes large and heavy items that have taken time to cross the ocean, including large pieces of docks, boats and things like refrigerators and cars. Scientists expect the debris to litter the North American coast for the next three years, according to a story by KGW, an NBC affiliate in Oregon.
“When it comes into our Pacific shores in North America it (the debris) tends to stay offshore for months and sometimes a year,” he told the station. “It’s not until we actually end up with local storm events or changes in the season that debris comes ashore.”
Last summer, 26 Japanese boats floated ashore in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, Chan said. In 2012, a 66-foot (20m) piece of dock floated up on a beach southwest of Portland.
The magnitude 9.0 earthquake, the most powerful ever recorded in Japan, set off a series of massive waves that killed nearly 20,000 people and damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.