SEATTLE (CBS Seattle) – An island of debris the size of Texas is floating in the Pacific Ocean heading straight to the United States, a new report states.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), approximately five million tons of debris were washed into the ocean after the 2011 tsunami in Japan and some of that has already reached beaches in the Pacific Northwest.

Now, a new report released by the NOAA explains a new model that is improving the understanding of potential paths of the debris from the devastating tsunami.

The NOAA used a computer model using past data on ocean currents to forecast potential paths of the tsunami debris immediately after it occurred and it gave them an idea of the direction and timing of the debris.  Wind speed and ocean current data from the past year have been incorporated into an updated model.

“This new modeling effort gives us a better understanding of where the debris may have traveled to-date, but it does not predict where it will go in the future or how fast it will drift,” the NOAA report states. ” The new model takes into account that wind may move items at different speeds based on how high or low materials sit in the water.”

There are no accurate estimates of how much debris is still floating in the ocean today, but Japan estimates about 30 percent of that floated away from shore.

Researchers with NOAA have proved that a Japanese fishing vessel floating adrift in Canadian waters near British Columbia were debris from the tsunami.

In an attempt to track where the debris may travel, the NOAA is collecting observations from aircraft, vessels, and high-resolution satellites.

The NOAA is making contingency plans with other agencies to help protect coastal communities from the debris.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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