Quote from: NOAAVisualizations
After the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011, tons of debris was swept into the Pacific. Much of it is buoyant enough to float on the surface and can be moved around by small scale currents and large scale circulation patterns, such as the North Pacific Gyre. The gyre, bounded by the Kuroshio Current on the west, California Current on the east, and Equatorial Current on the south tends to entrain debris in the center of the Pacific basin, creating what is commonly known as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch." Though the bulk of the marine debris remains in the ocean for years in an area north of Hawaii, individual pieces are continually washing up on the continental and island shores that border the basin. NOAA's Marine Debris Program leads efforts to track and remove much of this existing trash, and is currently assessing the tsunami debris. Scientists as NOAA's Earths System Research Laboratory developed the debris dispersion model, shown here. Using five years of historical weather patterns, the model is used to approximate how debris will circulate across the basin.