Almost two years after the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, some tsunami debris has reached U.S. shores. The Government of Japan estimated that the tsunami swept about 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean and that about 70 percent sank shortly after. The remaining 1.5 million tons dispersed far across the North Pacific Ocean.
What types of debris are expected to reach U.S. shores and where? Is the debris radioactive? What should I do if I see debris? Get answers to these questions and more during our Japan Tsunami Marine Debris TweetChat.
This Tweetchat occured on March 6, 2013. An archive of the Tweetchat is available online.
Nancy Wallace, NOAA Marine Debris Program Director
Nancy Wallace is the Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Debris Program, where she oversees federal efforts to research, prevent, and reduce the impacts of marine debris in the United States. Ms. Wallace has 10 years of experience in ocean policy, and her work has ranged from resource conservation with the National Park Service, to developing sustainable catch limits for fisheries off the U.S. East Coast, to efforts to improve water quality in the Gulf of Mexico. She holds a Master's degree in Marine Affairs and Policy from the University of Miami and a Bachelor's degree in Biology from Fairfield University.
Does the debris still look like this? Check out NOAA's Frequently Asked Questions to learn more. Credit: U.S. Navy
NOAA is leading efforts with federal, state, and local partners to collect data, assess the debris, and reduce possible impacts to our natural resources and coastal communities. NOAA is collecting at-sea observation data as well as modeling the debris movement and monitoring baseline debris accumulations. NOAA is also working with partners that regularly travel the Pacific Ocean, including the U.S. Coast Guard, commercial shipping vessels, and the fishing industry, to keep a look out for debris. Finally, NOAA has developed models to track where confirmed tsunami debris may be located today. The models incorporate winds and ocean current data from the past year and show how debris items may have moved items through the Pacific Ocean.
A soccer ball with Japanese writing, which came from a school in the tsunami zone and later washed up on an Alaskan island. Credit: David Baxter
The NOAA Marine Debris Program leads national and international efforts to research, prevent, and reduce the impacts of marine debris. Its staff, which is positioned across the country, supports marine debris projects in partnership with state and local agencies, tribes, non-governmental organizations, academia, and industry. The program also spearheads national research efforts and works to change behavior in the public through outreach and education initiatives.