The next time you go to the beach and pick up a piece up something from the sand, think of the story of how it arrived there. Is it something lost from the local town, or something that has drifted for years to arrive here just for you?
Kuroshio Current (upper left)
Early in the 1900’s – commercial Japanese crab fishermen began replacing wooden and cork floats on their fishing nets with free blown glass floats. When the nets broke loose or were lost, the net rotted and the glass balls floated free from their nets and drifted across the Pacific, along with much other debris, on the Kuroshio Current (also known as the Black Stream or Japanese Current). This is a north-flowing ocean current on the west side of the North Pacific Ocean and it is part of the North Pacific ocean gyre1.
1910 – PRESENT – Every year the Kuroshio Current brings material from Asia to North American shores – floats, shoes, boats, wood, bottles, cans, etc. – garbage!
March 11, 2011 – a powerful, magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit northeastern Japan, triggering a tsunami with 10-meter-high waves that reached the U.S. West Coast. So much debris was washed out to sea from Japan that forecasters have said that because of prevailing ocean currents (see above), the garbage will wash up on North American coastlines by 2014.
November 11, 2011 - Is Tsunami debris from Japan reaching BC? Beachcombers in BC on the west coast of Vancouver Island have been finding plastic drink bottles imprinted with Asian writing, floats, wood, and other debris. Is this from the the Japanese Tsunami? Not likely! See the video and the news story which is raising the alarm in the link above.
Japanese debris gyre
It takes approximately seven (7) years for debris from Japan to reach western American shores, and some of it floats longer.2 From the oceanographer’s reports, the acres of garbage is coming faster for some reason. Maybe because of the greater volume, and hence greater exposure to the wind. Debris moves faster if it is exposed to the wind. It is estimated at 20 million tonnes and covering an area the size of the state of California. The main part of the debris field is not expected until about 2014.
Please take a look at the following video which shows people beachcombing for glass balls (Asian fishnet floats). Look at all the garbage on the beaches, washed ashore by the winds, with help from the currents mentioned above. Lots of Asian material on the beaches there too (2010).
When the debris from the Japanese Tsunami hits our shores, we will know it!
This visualization shows ocean surface currents around the world during the period from June 2005 through December 2007. The visualization does not include a narration or annotations; the goal was to use ocean flow data to create a simple, visceral experience.
This visualization was produced using model output from the joint MIT/JPL project: Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, Phase II or ECCO2. ECCO2 uses the MIT general circulation model (MITgcm) to synthesize satellite and in-situ data of the global ocean and sea-ice at resolutions that begin to resolve ocean eddies and other narrow current systems, which transport heat and carbon in the oceans. ECCO2 provides ocean flows at all depths, but only surface flows are used in this visualization. The dark patterns under the ocean represent the undersea bathymetry. Topographic land exaggeration is 20x and bathymetric exaggeration is 40x.
With thanks to NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
This animation shows how wind affects the rate at which debris from the Japanese tsunami moves across the Pacific. It is a mathematical model that incorporates a great deal of ocean data, like ocean current and wind speed, but is not a direct measurement of actual debris pieces.
New analysis of NASA satellite information shows 64-million tons of dust, pollution and other nasty little particles, with potential to affect both us and our climate, survive a trip all the way across the ocean and arrive safely in North America each year. Even worse, models show Asia is the primary source of this nasty stuff.
. . . the jurisdiction scheduled to absorb the majority, B.C., with its labyrinthine 965 km-long coast (243,000 km total shoreline including islands), has no plans in place, no monies set aside, no idea what to do, and, until about two weeks ago, no one even studying the problem. “It’s so hypothetical at this point,” Environment Minister Terry Lake inexplicably stated last month.
Researchers making their first trip through the so-called Giant Pacific Garbage Patch since the 2011 Japan tsunami have concluded that plastic debris from the tragic event is making the patch bigger than ever.
They say it is now 2,000 miles wide.
“The entire North Pacific Gyre is now one giant accumulation zone of plastic pollution,” said expedition leader Marcus Eriksen in a press release. Large objects the researchers have found include half of a Japanese fishing boat and a fully-inflated tire.
“Everyone in the oceanic administrations and the mariners at sea are eager to know where that debris from the tsunami has moved,” said Robyn Thorson, the regional director for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
. . . a team of scientists has set sail aboard the Sea Dragon to get a close-up look at the debris as it floats in the ocean. It’ll be the first physical accounting of the floating debris — up ‘til now, scientists have modeled the likely path of the debris based on past wind and ocean current patterns.
May 30, 2012 – A Tsunami of Exaggeration (this is another article supporting my theory that 90% of the foreign garbage on the beaches is normal debris that occurs each year – most people have never ever heard about it or seen it mentioned until the tsunami happened!)
May 27, 2012 - The great Pacific garbage reality (this is a great article backing up what I have been saying – most of the debris is just the same garbage that accumulates every year on the Pacific coasts.
But Japan’s deputy consul general in Vancouver, Kinji Shinoda, remains cautious about tying the debris to the tsunami, saying tonnes of debris has sunk, and Canadians and even some major media outlets have already misidentified the Chinese characters on some garbage as Japanese.
1 A gyre in oceanography is any large system of rotating ocean currents, particularly those involved with large wind movements. Gyres are caused by the Coriolis Effect; planetary vorticity along with horizontal and vertical friction, which determine the circulation patterns from the wind curl. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_gyre. A good description of the offending gyre is found here.
2 Today most of the glass floats remaining in the ocean are stuck in a circular pattern of ocean currents in the North Pacific. Off the east coast of Taiwan, the Kuroshio Current starts as a northern branch of the western-flowing North Equatorial Current. It flows past Japan and meets the arctic waters of the Oyashio Current. At this junction, the North Pacific Current (or Drift) is formed which travels east across Pacific before slowing down in the Gulf of Alaska. As it turns south, the California Current pushes the water into the North Equatorial Current once again, and the cycle continues. Much garbage is still drifting on these ocean currents, impolitely known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Occasionally storms or certain tidal conditions will break some garbage from this circular pattern and bring it ashore on the beaches of Alaska, British Columbia or Washington and Oregon. It is estimated that glass floats for example must be a minimum of 7–10 years old before washing up on beaches in Alaska. Most floats that wash up, however, would have been afloat for 10 years. A small amount of garbage is also trapped in the Arctic ice pack where there is movement over the North Pole and into the Atlantic Ocean. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_float
May 04, 2013 – Fishing float rides 2 tsunamis — and survives
Natural Resources Canada A fishing float thought to be Japan tsunami debris was carried into a Canadian forest by a 2012 tsunami after the Haida Gwaii earthquake.