Thursday, February 23, 2012

Japan Tsunami Debris: Information and FAQs

UPDATE: April, 2012

Japanese teen traced as owner of tsunami soccer ball found in Alaska

Japan tsunami debris: Alaskan finds grateful teen's soccer ball 

Feb. 23, 2012

As the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami wreaked devastation on land, it also washed tons of debris into the sea. Heavy debris settled to the ocean floor, but buoyant debris continued to drift out to the open ocean. This debris could reach the west coast of the Americas as early as this winter, according to scientists at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA's debris flow model using Ocean Surface Current Simulator.
Year 1 = red; Year 2 = orange; Year 3 = yellow; Year 4 = light blue;
Year 5 = violet Courtesy of NOAA; created using Google.
More information and video can be found on NOAA's website,

Even with sophisticated modeling, some uncertainty exists about what is still floating and where it will go. There are even concerns that some of this debris may be contaminated by radiation from the melted-down Fukushima  Daichi nuclear plant. Recently, a large piece of debris found on a beach in Humboldt County, Calif., was the cause of such concerns and prompted a response by the local Office of Emergency Services, state and federal agencies. The object and persons who came in contact with it were monitored and determined to be free of radioactive materials, however it raised concerns about the potential hazards of beach debris whether or not they pose a threat of radioactivity. (Read more at

NOAA is working with the Japanese consulate to return any item that they can positvely trace back to a person or company. To report any debris sightings, email To sign up as a volunteer, email
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