Saturday, October 15, 2011

Russian ship finds UHawai`i-projected tsunami debris field

It’s cool when your computer-based model runs into real world testing, and ends up right.

And a new University of Hawai`i program tracking the debris from this year’s Japan tsunami has experienced that kind of cool.

(Image: The Russian sail training ship STS Pallada. Credit: Pallada.)

At the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s International Pacific Research Center, senior researcher Nikolai Maximenko and scientific computer programmer Jan Hafner have been using computers to track the likely route of the massive pulse of debris from the March 11 tsunami, as it travels on the morth Pacific currents.

They sent the results of their computer modeling to the Russian sail training ship Pallada, which was crossing from Honolulu to Vladivostok. The sailors kept an eye out, and sure enough, when they sailed a distance past Midway, heading northwest, they came across a complex field of tsunami-caused debris.

Pallada information and education mate Natalia Borodina reported on Sept. 27 that stuff that matches what they would have expected to find. They tested for radiation from the damaged Japanese nuclear plant, but did not identify raised levels of radiation.

“We keep sighting everyday things like wooden boards, plastic bottles, buoys from fishing nets (small and big ones), an object resembling wash basin, drums, boots, other wastes. All these objects are floating by the ship,” she emailed.

They even came across a Japanese fishing boat, a 20-footer whose wheelhouse bears inscriptions indicating it came from Fukushima Prefecture, which suffered severe damage from the tsunami. The boat was brought on board the Pallada.

(Image: Adrift Japanese fishing boat hoisted aboard STS Pallada. Credit: Pallada)

The debris was within the debris field predicted by the models of Maximenko and Hafner.

The researchers project that the debris may hit Midway and other parts of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands this winter, and could reach the main Hawaiian Islands later.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2011

1 comment:

RoseAllen@ Hawaii Wedding said...

This is a very cool discovery and I think will be very helpful.