POSTED: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - 9:00am
UPDATED: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - 9:04am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — There are estimates that as much as twenty-five million tons of debris is headed toward the California coast, but predicting when it will arrive is difficult.
"Can you predict the weather two weeks from now? No. It's like the weather. This is driven by weather," says Dr. Menas Kafatos, Dean of Chapman University's Schmid College of Science.
Scientists at Chapman are using computer models to mathematically track the path Japan's tsunami debris should take across the Pacific.
Experts predict winds will push what's been called a giant garbage patch with boats, homes and cars that were swept out to sea.
By now they believe much of what was washed away has sunk.
"I imagine what remains is things that float easily, like plastic bottles, wood, things of that sort," Kafatos said. "It's bad for environment. It's bad for marine life."
The tsunami flooded hundreds of miles along the coast of Japan, killing between 15,000 and 19,000 people.
"Most of the debris came from cities," Kafatos said. "All these coastal areas and villages. That will not be radioactive."
Some of the debris has already been spotted near Hawaii.
Scientists expect some tsunami trash to hit Seattle next year and then head south.