NOAA Predictions for Tsunami Debris Arrival at Oregon Coast: When, How Big
(Oregon Coast) – This week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced it predicts debris from the Japanese earthquake-driven tsunami this spring will start washing up on the Oregon coast some time in 2013. The announcement also came with a request for the public to report such strandings of objects – to keep an eye out on the oceans when that time comes (photo above: logs washed up at Rockaway Beach).
So far, all the predictions are being created by computer modeling, and scientists agree they are in uncharted territory. In the announcement by NOAA, the organization said independent computer modeling by NOAA and the University of Hawaii seem to be coming up with the same results.
“If the models are correct, debris could pass near or wash ashore in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in spring 2012 approach the West Coast of the United States in 2013, and circle back to Hawaii in 2014 to 2016,” NOAA said in an official release.
There are a myriad of things that could happen here regarding how big the debris will be and when it will come. Also: what about the vague possibility there could be warnings of dangerous objects being flung out of the sea? Even with all that, there is even the expectation no debris will show up here.
Currently, some ships in the waters off Japan have spotted sizable debris fields floating in the ocean, and NOAA is studying these closely.
Carey Morishige is the islands regional coordinator with the NOAA Marine Debris Program/I.M. Systems Group, Inc., based in Hawaii - a spokesperson for the predictions programs.
“Unfortunately, we can't even say with 100 percent certainty that Japan tsunami debris will in fact wash ashore in Oregon,” Morishige said. “It is likely that if there is tsunami-generated debris out there that it will eventually make its way to the coast of Oregon and likely will wash ashore with other non-tsunami-generated debris in areas that you typically see debris on shores in Oregon.”
Morishige said researchers are still collecting information from people at sea in the hopes of understanding this unprecedented field of study.
“The latest report of sighted potential Japan tsunami debris is from the Russian vessel, STS Pallada,” Morishige said. “They sighted a Japan fishing boat and various home appliances as well as other debris that may or may not be tsunami-generated such as buoys and plastic bottles.” See the full article here - http://iprc.soest.hawaii.edu/news/press_releases/2011/pallada_tsunami_debris.pdf.
If more debris will show up than usual, or if it will be extremely large, Morishige said researchers don't have any firm predictions for that.
The official word from NOAA about the possibility of radioactive material coming onshore is that this is extremely unlikely as well – but surprisingly the wording of the release did not say it was completely impossible.
Oregon Coast Beach Connection asked Morishige about the possibility of large objects – like chunks of cars or homes – finding their way over here and posing risks at rocky shelf areas like Devil's Punchbowl or Yachats, where heavy surf often flings massive logs onto the rocks.
She did not have any predictions for that. Charlie Plybon, Oregon Field Manager with the Surfrider Foundation, did say this would be very unlikely, however.
“I think it's unlikely that we'll see whole cars or heavier objects, which will likely sink before they make it to our shores,” Plybon said. “It won't however be too uncommon for us to probably see a lot of the smaller plastic items from everyday living that tend to float or get pushed by the currents easily. And the difference will likely be the quantity of small stuff as much as it is some of the larger debris like wood from boat, infrastructure and home destruction.”
This means that broader, sandy beaches, like those at Cannon Beach, Seaside, Lincoln City or Newport, may see more smaller objects than usual.
Surfrider researchers are also out at sea examining the floating debris fields. Among other things, they are looking into the possibility these objects could be colonized by marine life or even transporting invasive species.
In the final analysis, however, there are far more unknowns about this upcoming event than what is known. If it's even going to be a beachcomber's dream is hard to say.
“To say the least, it's an untested hypothesis on what we'll get here, when, and this is all somewhat of an observational experiment in the making,” Plybon said.
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