Skip to main Content
Alaska Beat

Tsunami debris: Research models at odds with beachcomber finds

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published March 13, 2012

The New York Times is reporting on a growing discrepancy between predictive computer models and reports of beachcombers when it comes to debris washed into the ocean during the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011.

Computer models from NOAA and the University of Hawaii have predicted the flotsam to begin washing up on the West Coast of North America by early 2013.

But beachcombers all along the northeastern shores of the Pacific, from Alaska to California, say they have been collecting much more debris with Asian characters on it than usual since the March disaster.

Through February, at least 350 buoys of three different styles now in use by Japan's oyster fishery -- and photographed amid tsunami debris shortly after the disaster -- have been reported by 45 different beachcombers in the three Pacific Coast states, British Columbia and Alaska.

"The arrival of these buoys is unprecedented," noted flotsam expert Curtis Ebbesmeyer told Alaska Dispatch in a telephone interview during the first week of March. "Yes, they've washed up over the years, here and there, but never in these numbers. The arrival rate is 167 times the historical arrival rate."

Read the New York Times report here, and read previous Alaska Dispatch coverage, here, here, and here.

For more newsletters click here

Local news matters.

Support independent, local journalism in Alaska.