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Researchers: Hawaii may get hit with trash from Japan's tsunami

By Brian Walker, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Researchers create a simulation of how the trash will move in the Pacific Ocean
  • Trash should begin washing up on beaches in Hawaii within a year, the simulation shows
  • It will then hit parts of Canada, Oregon, Washington and California in 2014, the simulation shows
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(CNN) -- The Hawaiian islands may get a new and unwelcome addition in coming months -- a giant new island of debris floating in from Japan.

Researchers in Hawaii have created a simulation showing exactly how the houses, tires, chemicals and trees washed to sea by the March 11 tsunami will float across the Pacific and eventually hit the U.S. coast.

The team, led by Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner at the International Pacific Research Center of the University of Hawaii at Manoa have spent years preparing computer models by following real world observations of floating buoys, according to a statement.

The first wave should begin washing up on beaches in Hawaii within a year, the simulation shows.

After it passes Hawaii it should begin hitting beaches stretching from Vancouver down through Oregon, Washington and to the tip of Baja California in 2014, before bouncing back toward Hawaii for a second impact.

That second impact five years from now could be even more concentrated and harmful to Hawaii's beaches and reefs, the researchers found.

The flotsam and trash eventually makes its way into what's called the North Pacific Garbage Patch, a sort of circulating whirlpool of garbage hundreds of miles in diameter.

There it eventually decomposes and breaks up in collisions over many years.

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