Testing geoengineering

Solar radiation management is a class of theoretical concepts for manipulating the climate in order to reduce the risks of global warming caused by greenhouse gasses. But its potential effectiveness and risks are uncertain, and it is unclear whether tests could help narrow these uncertainties. A team composed of Caltech’s Doug MacMynowski, Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira and Ho-Jeong Shin, and Harvard’s David Keith used modeling to determine the type of testing that might be effective in the future. Their work has been published online by Energy and Environmental Science.

Ideas for solar radiation management include increasing the amount of aerosols in the stratosphere, which could scatter incoming solar heat away from Earth’s surface, or creating low-altitude marine clouds to reflect these same rays. Clearly the size of the scale and the intricacies of the many atmospheric and climate processes make testing these ideas difficult.

“While it is clearly premature to consider testing solar radiation management at a scale large enough to measure the climate response, it is not premature to understand what we can learn from such tests,” said Doug MacMynowski of the California Institute of Technology, who led the research. “But we did not address other important questions such as the necessary testing technology and the social and political implications of such tests.”

Using models the team was able to demonstrate that smaller-scale tests of solar radiation management could help inform decisions about larger scale deployments. Short-term tests would be particularly effective at understanding the effects of geoengineering on fast-acting climate dynamics. But testing would require several decades and, even then, would need to be extrapolated out to the centuries-long time scales relevant to studying climate change.

Some scientists have theorized that volcanic eruptions could stand in for tests, as they would cause same types of atmospheric changes as aerosols. But they wouldn’t be as effective as a sustained test.

“No test can tell us everything we might want to know, but tests could tell us some things we would like to know,” Caldeira said. “Tests could improve our understanding of likely consequences of intentional interference in the climate system and could also improve our knowledge about the climate’s response to the interference caused by our carbon dioxide emissions.”

He added: “We conducted a scientific investigation into what might be learned by testing these proposals. We are not advocating that such tests should actually be undertaken,”

Glaciers in southwest China feel the brunt of climate change

Significant increases in annual temperatures are having a devastating affect on glaciers in the mountainous regions of south-western China, potentially affecting natural habitats, tourism and wider economic development.

In a study published today, 25 October 2011, in IOP Publishing’s Environmental Research Letters, scientists examined data from 111 weather stations across south-western China and have shown that temperature patterns were consistent with warming, at a statistically significant level, between 1961 and 2008.

Of the 111 stations examined, 77 per cent displayed statistically significant increases in annual temperature.

Collating a broad range of research on glaciers during this time period, the researchers, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, identified three characteristics that were consistent with the increasing trend in temperature; drastic retreats were observed in the glacial regions, along with large losses of mass and an increase in the area of glacial lakes.

In the Pengqu basin of the Himalayas, for example, the 999 glaciers had a combined area loss of 131 km2 between 1970 and 2001, whilst the Yalong glacier in the Gangrigabu Mountains retreated over 1500 meters from 1980 to 2001.

The implications of these changes are far more serious than simply altering the landscape; glaciers are an integral part of thousands of ecosystems and play a crucial role in sustaining human populations.

Continued widespread melting of glaciers, caused by increasing temperatures, could potentially lead to floods, mudflows and rock falls, affecting traffic, tourism and wider economic development.

South-western China has 23,488 glaciers, covering an area of 29,523 km2 across the Himalayas and the Nyainqntanglha, Tanggula and Hengduan mountains.

As well as temperature, the researchers also investigated precipitation; however the results were less marked. Annual increasing precipitation is consistent with climate change and was observed in 53 per cent of the stations. A decrease in annual precipitation can also influence glacial retreat and this was observed in central regions of the Himalayas.

The lead author of this study, Dr Zongxing Li, said, “I think glacial loss is caused mainly by rises in temperature, especially in the high altitude regions. From the 14 weather stations above 4000 m, there was an annual mean temperature increase of 1.73 °C from 1961 to 2008.

“It is imperative we determine the relationship between climate change and glacier variations, particularly the role of precipitation, as the consequences of glacial retreat are far reaching.”

Land animals, ecosystems walloped after Permian dieoff

<IMG SRC="/Images/182956516.jpg" WIDTH="350" HEIGHT="220" BORDER="0" ALT="Lystrosaurus, a relative to mammals, was one of a handful of ‘disaster taxa’ to escape from the rubble of the Permian Period, along with the meter-high spore-tree Pleuromeia. Low diversity of animals delayed the full recovery of land ecosystems by millions of years. – Victor Leshyk”>
Lystrosaurus, a relative to mammals, was one of a handful of ‘disaster taxa’ to escape from the rubble of the Permian Period, along with the meter-high spore-tree Pleuromeia. Low diversity of animals delayed the full recovery of land ecosystems by millions of years. – Victor Leshyk

The cataclysmic events that marked the end of the Permian Period some 252 million years ago were a watershed moment in the history of life on Earth. As much as 90 percent of ocean organisms were extinguished, ushering in a new order of marine species, some of which we still see today. But while land dwellers certainly sustained major losses, the extent of extinction and the reshuffling afterward were less clear.

In a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers at Brown University and the University of Utah undertook an exhaustive specimen-by-specimen analysis to confirm that land-based vertebrates suffered catastrophic losses as the Permian drew to a close. From the ashes, the survivors, a handful of genera labeled “disaster taxa,” were free to roam more or less unimpeded, with few competitors in their respective ecological niches. This lack of competition, the researchers write, caused vicious boom-and-bust cycles in the ecosystems, as external forces wreaked magnified havoc on the tenuous links in the food web. As a result, the scientists conclude from the fossil record that terrestrial ecosystems took up to 8 million years to rebound fully from the mass extinction through incremental evolution and speciation.

“It means the (terrestrial ecosystems) were more subject to greater risk of collapse because there were fewer links” in the food web, said Jessica Whiteside, assistant professor of geological sciences at Brown and co-author on the paper.

The boom-and-bust cycles that marked land-based ecosystems’ erratic rebound were like “mini-extinction events and recoveries,” said Randall Irmis, a co-author on the paper, who is a curator of paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Utah and an assistant professor of geology and geophysics at Utah.

The hypothesis, in essence, places ecosystems’ recovery post-Permian squarely on the repopulation and diversification of species, rather than on an outside event, such as a smoothing out of climate. The analysis mirrors the conclusions reached by Whiteside in a paper published last year in Geology, in which she and a colleague argued that it took up to 10 million years after the end-Permian mass extinction for enough species to repopulate the ocean – restoring the food web – for the marine ecosystem to stabilize.

“It really is the same pattern” with land-based ecosystems as marine environments, Whiteside said. The same seems to hold true for plants, she added.

Some studies have argued that continued volcanism following the end-Permian extinction kept ecosystems’ recovery at bay, but Whiteside and Irmis say there’s no physical evidence of such activity.

The researchers examined nearly 8,600 specimens, from near the end of the Permian to the middle Triassic, roughly 260 million to 242 million years ago. The fossils came from sites in the southern Ural Mountains of Russia and from the Karoo Basin in South Africa. The specimen count and analysis indicated that approximately 78 percent of land-based vertebrate genera perished in the end-Permian mass extinction. Out of the rubble emerged just a few species, the disaster taxa. One of these was Lystrosaurus, a dicynodont synapsid (related to mammals) about the size of a German shepherd. This creature barely registered during the Permian but dominated the ecosystem following the end-Permian extinction, the fossil record showed. Why Lystrosaurus survived the cataclysm when most others did not is a mystery, perhaps a combination of luck and not being picky about what it ate or where it lived. Similarly, a reptilian taxon, procolophonids, were mostly absent leading to the end-Permian extinction, yet exploded onto the scene afterward.

“Comparison with previous food-web modeling studies suggests this low diversity and prevalence of just a few taxa meant that links in the food web were few, causing instability in the ecosystem and making it susceptible to boom-bust cycles and further extinction,” Whiteside said.

The ecosystems that emerged from the extinction had such low animal diversity that it was especially vulnerable to crashes spawned by environmental and other changes, the authors write. Only after species richness and evenness had been re-established, restoring enough population numbers and redundancy to the food web, did the terrestrial ecosystem fully recover. At that point, the carbon cycle, a broad indicator of life and death as well as the effect of outside influences, stabilized, the researchers note, using data from previous studies of carbon isotopes spanning the Permian and Triassic periods.

“These results are consistent with the idea that the fluctuating carbon cycle reflects the unstable ecosystems in the aftermath of the extinction event,” Whiteside said.

Poisonous oceans delayed animal evolution

Sedimentary rocks from Grand Canyon, USA, show evidence for widespread anoxic and sulfidic waters 750 million years ago. Since sulfide is poisonous to animals, it can explain why animals had not evolved on Earth at that time. -  PD photo (www.pdphoto.org)
Sedimentary rocks from Grand Canyon, USA, show evidence for widespread anoxic and sulfidic waters 750 million years ago. Since sulfide is poisonous to animals, it can explain why animals had not evolved on Earth at that time. – PD photo (www.pdphoto.org)

“We have investigated the cycling of molybdenum (Mo) in ancient oceans by studying the elemental and isotopic composition of Mo in sedimentary rocks from Grand Canyon that formed in the oceans 750 million years ago”, explains Tais W. Dahl, who did this research in collaboration with researchers from Arizona State University, Harvard University and the Nordic Center of Earth Evolution in Denmark (NordCEE).

Molybdenum tracks the presence of poisonous sulfide in ancient oceans

The study uses a new method to determine the extent of anoxia and presence of sulfide in the world oceans. Geochemical analyses of the trace element, molybdenum, in 750 million year-old rocks from Grand Canyon suggest oceans contained enormous amounts of lethal sulfide.

Molybdenum is relatively rich in today’s seawater, because it is soluble in water in the presence of O2, and therefore it accumulates in modern oxygenated oceans. Conversely, molybdenum becomes insoluble in anoxic waters where sulfide is present, so it precipitates out of the oceans. The new results show that oceans contained less Mo in the past, because sulfide-rich waters extended over much greater areas than today.

Vast areas of animal-inhospitable seafloor

Today, oceans are nearly fully oxygenated and sulfide is only present in restricted areas of the ocean, such as the deepest parts of the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea. According to a hypothesis established by Donald Canfield (NordCEE) in 1998 sulfide was a much more common constituent in the oceans 1900-750 million years ago.

The new study is first to quantify the expansion of sulfide in the ‘Canfield-ocean’. Model calculations for the oceanic molybdenum cycle suggest that 10-50% of the shallow oceans were covered with sulfidic waters. This is 400-800 times more than in today’s oceans. The vast areas of poisonous seafloor would have made oceans inhospitable for animals. Expansive anoxic and poisonous oceans are now held responsible for the late appearance of animal life forms on Earth.

Geoinformatics: Transporting geology to the future

'Societal Challenges and Geoinformatics,' a new volume from The Geological Society of America, discusses the many facets of geoinformatics.  Senior volume editor A. Krishna Sinha of Virginia Tech writes that 'The fusion of informatics technologies with geoscience-based data and tools signals a necessary change in the way we manage the future of our science.' -  Geological Society of America
‘Societal Challenges and Geoinformatics,’ a new volume from The Geological Society of America, discusses the many facets of geoinformatics. Senior volume editor A. Krishna Sinha of Virginia Tech writes that ‘The fusion of informatics technologies with geoscience-based data and tools signals a necessary change in the way we manage the future of our science.’ – Geological Society of America

Geoinformatics: What does it mean? It means disaster management; sustainability assessment; societal impacts and benefits of properly managing geologic metadata; global satellite data dissemination; development of international geoscience standards; bridging the barriers of terminology and data; international cooperation for global mapping; and “e-geoscience.” A new volume from The Geological Society of America covers all that and more.

Senior volume editor A. Krishna Sinha of Virginia Tech writes that “The fusion of informatics technologies with geoscience-based data and tools signals a necessary change in the way we manage the future of our science.”

Geoscientists around the world recognize the urgency in developing new information management capabilities to meet the ever growing needs to discover, manage, and sustain resources, as well as provide capabilities for forecasting adverse events for the public at large. This volume contains papers from researchers addressing some of these capabilities as they are being developed across the globe, and it highlights the future goal of geoinformatics to make data and tools available for meeting societal challenges.

Simply put, geoinformatics is about transforming data to knowledge, and promoting “data without borders.”

No simultaneous warming of Northern and Southern hemispheres as a result of climate change for 20,000 years

However, Svante Björck, a climate researcher at Lund University in Sweden, has now shown that global warming, i.e. simultaneous warming events in the northern and southern hemispheres, have not occurred in the past 20 000 years, which is as far back as it is possible to analyze with sufficient precision to compare with modern developments.

Svante Björck’s study thus goes 14 000 years further back in time than previous studies have done.

“What is happening today is unique from a historical geological perspective”, he says.

Svante Björck has gone through the global climate archives, which are presented in a large number of research publications, and looked for evidence that any of the climate events that have occurred since the end of the last Ice Age 20 000 years ago could have generated similar effects on both the northern and southern hemispheres simultaneously.

It has not, however, been possible to verify this. Instead, he has found that when, for example, the temperature rises in one hemisphere, it falls or remains unchanged in the other.

“My study shows that, apart from the larger-scale developments, such as the general change into warm periods and ice ages, climate change has previously only produced similar effects on local or regional level”, says Svante Björck.

As an example, let us take the last clear climate change, which took place between the years 1600 and 1900 and which many know as the Little Ice Age. Europe experienced some of its coldest centuries. While the extreme cold had serious consequences for agriculture, state economies and transport in the north, there is no evidence of corresponding simultaneous temperature changes and effects in the southern hemisphere.

The climate archives, in the form of core samples taken from marine and lake sediments and glacier ice, serve as a record of how temperature, precipitation and concentration of atmospheric gases and particles have varied over the course of history, and are full of similar examples.

Instead it is during ‘calmer’ climatic periods, when the climate system is influenced by external processes, that the researchers can see that the climate signals in the archives show similar trends in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

“This could be, for example, at the time of a meteorite crash, when an asteroid hits the earth or after a violent volcanic eruption when ash is spread across the globe. In these cases we can see similar effects around the world simultaneously”, says Svante Björck.

Professor Björck draws parallels to today’s situation. The levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are currently changing very rapidly. At the same time, global warming is occurring.

“As long as we don’t find any evidence for earlier climate changes leading to similar simultaneous effects on a global scale, we must see today’s global warming as an exception caused by human influence on the earth’s carbon cycle”, says Svante Björck, continuing:

“this is a good example of how geological knowledge can be used to understand our world. It offers perspectives on how the earth functions without our direct influence and thus how and to what extent human activity affects the system.”

Svante Björck’s results were published this summer in the scientific journal Climate Research.

Fiery volcano offers geologic glimpse into land that time forgot

The operations area at West Mata volcano during the 2009 expedition is part of the Lau Basin, bounded by Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. -  NSF/NOAA
The operations area at West Mata volcano during the 2009 expedition is part of the Lau Basin, bounded by Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. – NSF/NOAA

The first scientists to witness exploding rock and molten lava from a deep sea volcano, seen during a 2009 expedition, report that the eruption was near a tear in the Earth’s crust that is mimicking the birth of a subduction zone.

Scientists on the expedition collected boninite, a rare, chemically distinct lava that accompanies the formation of Earth’s subduction zones.

Nobody has ever collected fresh boninite and scientists never had the opportunity to monitor its eruption before, said Joseph Resing, University of Washington oceanographer and lead author of an online article on the findings in Nature Geoscience. Earth’s current subduction zones are continually evolving but most formed 5 million to 200 million years ago. Scientists have only been able to study boninite collected from long-dead, relic volcanos millions of years old.

Resing was chief scientist on the expedition, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation, that pinpointed the location of the West Mata volcano, erupting 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) below the surface in the Southwest Pacific Ocean.

“Everything about the eruption itself – how fast, how intense, the ratio of lava to explosive fragments, the amount and composition of gas released – is new to us,” said co-author Kenneth Rubin, University of Hawaii geologist. “Plus, having a young, fresh occurrence of this very rare rock type to study gives us the opportunity to examine subtle chemical and mineralogical variations in a pristine specimen.”

At subduction zones the oceanic crust on one tectonic plate slides beneath another, producing abundant volcanism and contributing heat, gases and mineral-laden fluids to ocean waters. Scientists have long studied the impact of subduction zones on geological and geochemical cycles. To puzzle out how subduction zones form and evolve they study inactive contemporary marine volcanos that do not produce boninite and they collect and study boninite lavas collected on land and examine cores collected from the deep sea.

“West Mata lies above the subducting Pacific plate and is part of the rapidly expanding Lau Basin, which is bounded by Samoa, Tonga and Fiji,” Resing said. “The large bend at the northern end of the Tonga trench produces a tear in the Pacific plate and creates unusual lavas that usually only form at very young subduction zones.”

Conditions are right for boninite to form, there’s lots of seawater released from subducting rock that mixes into relatively shallow mantle that has previously melted, causing the mantle to remelt at high temperatures. Boninite lavas are believed to be among the hottest from volcanoes that erupt on Earth.

“What makes this exciting is how uncommon these eruptions of boninite are, both now and in the past,” Rubin said. “Locked within the boninite is critical information about the rates and magnitudes of subduction-zone magmatism and global geochemical cycles.”

The scientists writing in Nature Geoscience think the release of gaseous water, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide from the slab is the reason the eruption was so explosive. No one realized such energetic eruptions happened so deep, Resing says. Streams of red and gold lava 35 feet long shot through the water and lava-skinned bubbles some three feet across emerged.

West Mata, which the scientists estimate has been erupting for at least three years, and eight other elongated volcanoes that overlap each other in the northeast Lau Basin sit within one of the most magmatically active areas on Earth, Resing says.

“The basin may prove an important place to study submarine volcanic eruptions in relation to early stages of subduction,” he said.

Rubin and Robert Embley, with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Newport, Ore., and co-author on the paper, will return to the area in November for further study and to try to determine if the volcano is still actively erupting.

“Observing the eruption in real time was a rare and special opportunity because we know so little about how submarine volcanic activity behaves,” Embley said. “This is one of only a handful of ‘glimpses’ of the process we’ve had to date and is the first time we’ve actually observed natural submarine light from the glowing magma.

New evidence for the oldest oxygen-breathing life on land

New University of Alberta research shows the first evidence that oxygen-breathing bacteria occupied and thrived on land 100 million years earlier than previously thought.

The researchers show the most primitive form of aerobic respiring life on land came into existence 2.48 billion years ago.

The research team, led by U of A geomicrobiologist Kurt Konhauser made their find by investigating a link between atmospheric oxygen levels and rising concentrations of chromium in the rock of ancient sea beds. The researchers suggest that the jump in chromium levels was triggered by the land-based oxidization of the mineral pyrite.

Pyrite oxidation is driven by bacteria and oxygen. Aerobic bacteria broke down the pyrite, which released acid at an unprecedented scale. The acid then dissolved rocks and soils into a cocktail of metals, including chromium, which was transferred to the ocean by the runoff of rain water.

Konhauser says the key to the process is oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere that allowed bacterial oxidation of pyrite. The researchers dated the peak for chromium levels in marine sedimentary rock was reached 2.48 billion years ago.

“This gives us a new date for the Great Oxidation Event, the time when the atmosphere first had oxygen,” said Konhauser. “The rising levels of atmospheric oxygen fostered the evolution of new bacteria species that survived by aerobic respiration on land.

“Our ancestors started off in an acid bath as oxygen-breathing bacteria.”

The same bacterial life forms are alive and well today, living off pyrite and settling in the highly acidic waste waters of mining sites the world over.

The research by Konhauser and his team is published in the Oct.19 edition of the journal Nature.

CSI-style investigation of meteorite hits on Earth

<IMG SRC="/Images/792564511.jpg" WIDTH="350" HEIGHT="276" BORDER="0" ALT="Meteorite impact ejecta (left) compared with volcanic deposits (right) showing closely similar structures made of dust particles.

The top two photos show accretionary lapilli in density current deposits, whereas bottom two photos show pellets that formed when dust in the atmosphere clumped together and simply fell onto the land surface. – From Branney and Brown 2011 (Journal of Geology 199, 275-292″>

Meteorite impact ejecta (left) compared with volcanic deposits (right) showing closely similar structures made of dust particles.

The top two photos show accretionary lapilli in density current deposits, whereas bottom two photos show pellets that formed when dust in the atmosphere clumped together and simply fell onto the land surface. – From Branney and Brown 2011 (Journal of Geology 199, 275-292


Volcanologists from the Universities of Leicester and Durham have forensically reconstructed the impact of a meteorite on Earth and how debris was hurled from the crater to devastate the surrounding region.

New research by Mike Branney, of the University of Leicester’s Department of Geology, and Richard Brown, University of Durham, shows that some aspects of giant meteorite impacts onto Earth may mimic the behavior of large volcanic eruptions.

Meteorite impacts are more common than is popularly appreciated – but what happens when the meteorite hits? Direct observation is understandably difficult, but researchers pick through impact debris that has been spared the ravages of erosion, to forensically reconstruct the catastrophic events.

Mike Branney and Richard Brown analyzed an ejecta layer derived from the impact of a huge meteorite and discovered that much of the ejected debris moved across the ground as rapid, dense, ground-hugging currents of gas and debris, remarkably similar to the awesome pyroclastic density currents that flow radially outwards from explosive volcanoes.

Dr Branney said: “In particular, the way that ash and dust stick together seems identical. Moist ash from explosive volcanoes sticks together in the atmosphere to fall out as mm-sized pellets. Where these drop back into a hot pyroclastic density current, they grow into larger layered structures, known as accretionary lapilli.”

The researchers studied a finely preserved deposit in northwest Scotland from a huge impact that occurred a billion years ago. It shows both types of these ‘volcanic’ particles – pellets and lapilli – are produced.

Dr Brown added: “This reveals that that the 10 meter-thick layer, which has been traced for over 50 km along the Scottish coast, was almost entirely emplaced as a devastating density current that sped outwards from the point of impact – just like a density current from a volcano. Only the uppermost few centimetres actually fell out through the atmosphere. “

The Leicester and Durham scientists say that an improved understanding of what happens when large objects hits the Earth will help us understand how these catastrophic events may have affected life on the planet in the past …and possibly in the future.

Russian ship finds tsunami debris where scientists predicted

The Pallada is a 'sail training ship' that visited Honolulu Harbor in September homeward bound to Vladivostock. -  Image courtesy of STS Pallada
The Pallada is a ‘sail training ship’ that visited Honolulu Harbor in September homeward bound to Vladivostock. – Image courtesy of STS Pallada

Ever since the great Japan tsunami on March 11 washed millions of tons of debris into the Pacific, scientists at the International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, have been trying to track the trajectory of this debris that can threaten small ships and coastlines. For nearly half a year, Senior Researcher Nikolai Maximenko and Computer Scientific Programmer Jan Hafner had only their state-of-the-art – but still untested – computer model of currents to speculate where the debris might end up. Now valuable sightings of the debris are reported from places where the model predicted.

Warned by maps of the scientists’ model, the Russian sail training ship, the STS Pallada, found an array of unmistakable tsunami debris on its homeward voyage from Honolulu to Vladivostok.

Soon after passing Midway Islands (see map), Pallada spotted surprising number of floating items. “Yesterday, i.e. on September 22, in position 31042,21 N and 174045,21 E, we picked up on board the Japanese fishing boat. Radioactivity level – normal, we’ve measured it with the Geiger counter,” writes Natalia Borodina, Information and Education Mate of the Pallada. “At the approaches to the mentioned position (maybe 10 – 15 minutes before) we also sighted a TV set, fridge and a couple of other home appliances.”

Later, on September 27: “We keep sighting every day things like wooden boards, plastic bottles, buoys from fishing nets (small and big ones), an object resembling wash basin, drums, boots, other wastes. All these objects are floating by the ship.”

The map shows the stretch of Pallada’s route where debris was sighted between September 21 and 28, 2011. The red rhombus marks the location where the Japanese boat was found, and the red circle denotes maximum debris density experienced. Purple color shows the distribution of the tsunami debris in the SCUD model on September 25.

On October 8, the Pallada entered the port of Vladivostok, and Borodina was able to send pictures. The most remarkable one is of a small fishing vessel about 20 feet long, which they were able to hoist up on to the Pallada. The markings on the wheel house of the boat show its home port to be in the Fukushima Prefecture, the area hardest hit by the tsunami.

With the exact locations of some of the by now widely scattered debris, the scientists can make more accurate projections about when the debris might arrive at the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. The first landfall on Midway Islands is anticipated this winter. What misses Midway will continue towards the main Hawaiian Islands and the North American West Coast.