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Previous story Debris from Japan's tsunami moving to Oregon Coast Next story

Story by Jannette Yenning - Oregon State Media Inc
Published on Tuesday March 29, 2011 - 10:57 AM
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PORTLAND, Oregon - Portland State University geology professor and Oceanographer Curt Petersen says debris from the Japanese tsunami is caught up in a large circle, and is currently making its way across the Pacific Ocean. He says it's a system of ocean currents circulating the debris toward the Oregon coast.

"We expect to find plastics and Styrofoam bottles and other lightweight material moving in this direction first," said Peterson

Another well-known oceanographer from Seattle, Curt Ebbesmeyer agrees. He says a good amount of debris from Japan's tsunami and earthquake will wash up on the West Coast within one to three years.

How fast the flotsam arrives depends on the size and weight of the material, said Ebbesmeyer. A derelict vessel could take 12 months, while a rubber ducky may take a couple years.

He says the debris will likely flow in a big circle, carried by currents from Japan to Oregon, Washington, British Columbia before moving toward Hawaii and then back toward Asia.

Most of the debris will be plastic items, Ebbesmeyer said. Heavier items like cars will naturally sink.

Ebbesmeyer and another scientist have been mapping the path of ocean debris for years and he wrote a book about the research.