When the monstrous tsunami of March 2011 struck the northeast coast of Japan, the retreating waves pulled many pieces of civilization and many lives out to sea. The Japanese government estimated that 5 million tons of debris was swept up by the event, with about 70 percent sinking to the seafloor and 1.5 million tons left floating. More than a year later, the debris from that tragedy is still drifting on the Pacific Ocean, though no one can say for sure how much and where.
This animation shows the output of the Surface Currents from Diagnostic (SCUD) model, an attempt to simulate where and how that debris would disperse. Orange and red shaded areas represent parcels of water with a high probably of containing floating debris. The deeper the red color, the higher the likely concentration. The debris field stretches roughly 5,000 kilometers by 2,000 kilometers across the North Pacific.
Read more at http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=77489&src=youtube