Radiation from Japan not likely to harm North America

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:53 PM GMT on March 14, 2011

Share this Blog
8
+

Radiation from Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has been detected 100 miles to the northeast, over the Pacific Ocean, by the U.S. military. Westerly to southwesterly winds have predominated over Japan the past few days, carrying most of the radiation eastwards out to sea. The latest forecast for Sendai, Japan, located about 40 miles north of the Fukushima nuclear plant, calls for winds with a westerly component to dominate for the remainder of the week, with the exception of a 6-hour period on Tuesday. Thus, any radiation released by the nuclear plant will primarily affect Japan or blow out to sea. A good tool to predict the radiation cloud's path is NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model. The model uses the GFS model's winds to track the movement of a hypothetical release of a substance into the atmosphere. One can specify the altitude of the release as well as the location, and follow the trajectory for up to two weeks. However, given the highly chaotic nature of the atmosphere's winds, trajectories beyond about 3 days have huge uncertainties.One can get only a general idea of where a plume is headed beyond 3 days. I've been performing a number of runs of HYSPLIT over past few days, and so far great majority of these runs have taken plumes of radioactivity emitted from Japan's east coast eastwards over the Pacific, with the plumes staying over water for at least 5 days. Some of the plumes move over eastern Siberia, Alaska, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico in 5 - 7 days. Such a long time spent over water will mean that the vast majority of the radioactive particles will settle out of the atmosphere or get caught up in precipitation and rained out. It is highly unlikely that any radiation capable of causing harm to people will be left in atmosphere after seven days and 2000+ miles of travel distance. Even the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which had a far more serious release of radioactivity, was unable to spread significant contamination more than about 1000 miles.


Figure 1. Forecast 7-day movement of a plume of radioactive plume of air emitted at 12 UTC Saturday, March 12, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactivity emitted at 2 levels is tracked: 100 meters (red) and 300 meters (blue). Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.


Figure 2. Forecast 7-day movement of a plume of radioactive plume of air emitted at 12 UTC Sunday, March 13, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactivity emitted at 2 levels is tracked: 100 meters (red) and 300 meters (blue). Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.


Figure 3. Forecast 7-day movement of a plume of radioactive plume of air emitted at 12 UTC Monday, March 14, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactivity emitted at 2 levels is tracked: 100 meters (red) and 300 meters (blue). Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.

I'll have an update Tuesday morning.

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 811 - 761

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18Blog Index

Quoting FloridaHeat:


They need to evacuate to China immediately. We saw the earthquake lowered regions of the country by several feet. What if an aftershock or another quake lowers the whole country by several feet.



why do you think that China would allow 120 million people into there country when they already have billions of people

no country on earth would allow that type of evacuation to come to there country. I would say that 5-6 countries could open there door for children of:

1. Areas hardest hit by the tsunami
2. Areas of greatest threat from Radiation
3. Children who lost both parents
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Thundercloud01221991:
Where would they evacuate to is the other question even if you could evacuate the entire country


They need to evacuate to China immediately. We saw the earthquake lowered regions of the country by several feet. What if an aftershock or another quake lowers the whole country by several feet.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting fireflymom:
Following earlier reports, it appears there has been more than one strong aftershock in Japan - AP reports two tremors measuring over 6.0 within three minutes of each other.


one of those was less then 6.0 it was a 5.8 and a 6.1
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Neapolitan:

Did they wake you?


Twit! LOL Guess I deserved that one.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Following earlier reports, it appears there has been more than one strong aftershock in Japan - AP reports two tremors measuring over 6.0 within three minutes of each other.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Where would they evacuate to is the other question even if you could evacuate the entire country
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Neapolitan:

Did they wake you?


LOL, good one.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FloridaHeat:
Japan may need to be evacuated.


You can't evacuate an entire country, most especially one that has over 127 million people. The best you can do is make people in a certain-number-of-miles radius evacuate.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Church bells rang as far away as Boston.

Did they wake you?
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13526
gro- the poor little poptarts had crumbled while still inside their little wrappers. They had been intact when I bought'm...

then I started hanging nickels taped to dental floss around the house, so I'd KNOW if it was really an aftershock, or if I was imagining it.

yeah an earthquake will make you crazy, esp if you're from Florida.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Keep up with the program, Canes.


MAP 6.8 2011/03/12 01:47:16 37.588 142.682 24.8 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAP


You quoted the wrong comment LOL (I had to get ya, and I said I believe LOL).

The government of Japan told residents within a 19-mile radius of the nuclear power plant to seal themselves off indoors. The numbers given said that 140,000 people, and I don't know why they didn't tell them to evacuate just after the earthquake.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting twincomanche:


Nineteen. Also trying to get my skull full of mush filled in the halls of higher learning.


Did it take? j/k
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RecordSeason:


A lot of people don't understand the magnitude scales. They thing a 9.0 is maybe slightly stronger than a 7.0. A few years ago when the Indonesia quake happened, there was this guy saying it was only about 50% stronger than a 6.0...


Well, a 9.0 is actually 1024 times as powerful as a 7.0, and is 32768 times as powerful as a 6.0. A 9.0 is also twice as powerful as an 8.8 quake.

So it's hard to explain to people who don't get it and think it's a linear scale.

Every tenth of a point is a power of the square root of 2, or every two tenths of a point is a power of 2, or every full point is a power of 32.


The strongest earthquake to hit the US in my life is a 6.9. This 9.0 quake was 1448 times more powerful than the Loma Prietta quake in California which happpened during the world series.


There have been stronger like: Link
but the Loma Prietta was the last to significantly affect a large metro area in the US (also Northridge 6.8). The one I refer to was near Joshua Tree, but still a 7.1.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Neapolitan:

Imagine if--or rather when--there's a repeat of the New Madrid series of quakes: four separate tremors of between 7.2MM and 8.1MM over a period of seven weeks. Given how easily the shaking propagates through the solid bedrock, they'd be felt as far away as Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin. Some estimates put damage from a repeat quake nowadays at around a trillion dollars or so, as several large cities would suffer severe damage (Memphis, St. Louis, Little Rock, Indianapolis, Nashville, and so on).


Church bells rang as far away as Boston. It is not just the sold bedrock. Because the underlying ground has less fractures than in the west, the enery is not broken up and is therefore able to travel much further. That is the main reason quakes in the East are felt over a much greater range.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RecordSeason:
So the United States is not even close to being prepared for a quake of this magnitude...anywhere on our soil, perid.

We aren't even one thousandth prepared for a 9.0 quake. The 6.9 quake was at the very threshold. Another tenth or two and it would have leveled the city...

Imagine if--or rather when--there's a repeat of the New Madrid series of quakes: four separate tremors of between 7.2MM and 8.1MM over a period of seven weeks. Given how easily the shaking propagates through the solid bedrock, they'd be felt as far away as Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin. Some estimates put damage from a repeat quake nowadays at around a trillion dollars or so, as several large cities would suffer severe damage (Memphis, St. Louis, Little Rock, Indianapolis, Nashville, and so on).
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13526
Quoting caneswatch:


They're on a thing called the Ring of Fire, and this is where 90% of the world's earthquakes occur. No one deserves an earthquake, it's just a matter of where they are.


Keep up with the program, Canes.


MAP 6.8 2011/03/12 01:47:16 37.588 142.682 24.8 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAP
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FloridaHeat:
What did Japan do to deserve this?


They're on a thing called the Ring of Fire, and this is where 90% of the world's earthquakes occur. No one deserves an earthquake, and the effects, especially the unbelievable effects this one is causing, it's just a matter of where they are.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Just look at the past few hours


MAG UTC DATE-TIME
y/m/d h:m:s LAT
deg LON
deg DEPTH
km Region
MAP 5.2 2011/03/15 13:37:54 37.678 141.957 21.3 NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 6.1 2011/03/15 13:31:46 35.322 138.552 1.0 EASTERN HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 5.8 2011/03/15 13:27:54 37.626 142.320 1.0 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 3.0 2011/03/15 13:07:51 18.284 -68.046 105.4 MONA PASSAGE, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
MAP 4.6 2011/03/15 12:51:46 38.925 144.209 25.2 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 4.9 2011/03/15 12:33:11 38.977 142.631 24.9 NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 5.2 2011/03/15 11:46:20 40.530 142.689 13.7 NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 5.0 2011/03/15 11:43:48 37.819 145.118 18.2 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


that is on a different fault line completely
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting twincomanche:


I don't know how old you are, however:
Prince William Sound, Alaska
1964 March 28 03:36 UTC
1964 March 27 05:36 p.m. local time
Magnitude 9.2


I was in college. I think Easter was early that year, if I am not mistaken. How old were you? LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Morning Grothar!

That's the worst aftershock they've had, I believe.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting twincomanche:


I don't know how old you are, however:
Prince William Sound, Alaska
1964 March 28 03:36 UTC
1964 March 27 05:36 p.m. local time
Magnitude 9.2


That's the one that caused the Tidal wave in Port Alberni BC

1964 Alaska earthquake
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting aquak9:
g'morning gro

I know a 6.8 will bounce you off of a very heavy sofa. It will break your poptarts, too.

AND make you lose your mind.


I always take care of my poptarts. These aftershocks are really very strong. I wish I knew more about how these swarms are. They seem to be on nearby faults. I just don't remember the Indonesian quake having so many strong ones after. I know they did have many for a long time after the initial one.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RecordSeason:
So the United States is not even close to being prepared for a quake of this magnitude...anywhere on our soil, perid.

We aren't even one thousandth prepared for a 9.0 quake. The 6.9 quake was at the very threshold. Another tenth or two and it would have leveled the city...

We are as prepared for a quake this magnitude as I am prepared to become a neurosurgeon. (in other words, we're doomed, and the patient is gonna die)
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5881
Quoting Grothar:
6.1 Here is the link:
Link

Depth 1 km (~0.6 mile) set by location program

WOW. That is a VERY shallow quake, especially of that size. No wonder why they listed it as a magnitude 6 on their scale. (as a note, the Christchurch quake of last month was a 6.3 at only 3 miles deep)

I'm also willing to bet there was some significant surface faulting on that quake, too.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5881
Quoting Thundercloud01221991:
crap that is near Tokeo... is the other fault going to go?



6.1
Date-Time Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 13:31:46 UTC
Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 10:31:46 PM at epicenter

Location 35.322°N, 138.552°E
Depth 1 km (~0.6 mile) set by location program
Region EASTERN HONSHU, JAPAN
Distances 40 km (25 miles) NNE (20°) from Shizuoka, Honshu, Japan
42 km (26 miles) S (182°) from Kofu, Honshu, Japan
104 km (65 miles) NE (48°) from Hamamatsu, Honshu, Japan
115 km (72 miles) WSW (251°) from TOKYO, Japan
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
g'morning gro

I know a 6.8 will bounce you off of a very heavy sofa. It will break your poptarts, too.

AND make you lose your mind.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
if ike is around? blues is alive and well with the north miss. allstars http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QViM36uCN2U
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RecordSeason:


A lot of people don't understand the magnitude scales. They thing a 9.0 is maybe slightly stronger than a 7.0. A few years ago when the Indonesia quake happened, there was this guy saying it was only about 50% stronger than a 6.0...


Well, a 9.0 is actually 1024 times as powerful as a 7.0, and is 32768 times as powerful as a 6.0. A 9.0 is also twice as powerful as an 8.8 quake.

So it's hard to explain to people who don't get it and think it's a linear scale.

Every tenth of a point is a power of the square root of 2, or every two tenths of a point is a power of 2, or every full point is a power of 32.

Exactly. When I point out that the quake moved a section of sea floor THREE HUNDRED MILES LONG up an average of 10 feet, they pause. When I say that the quake moved the ENTIRE island of Honshu 13 feet to the east... they think again about their comments.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5881
crap that is near Tokeo... is the other fault going to go?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
6.1 Here is the link:
Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Update time = Tue Mar 15 14:00:05 UTC 2011


MAG UTC DATE-TIME
y/m/d h:m:s LAT
deg LON
deg DEPTH
km Region
MAP 6.1 2011/03/15 13:31:46 35.322 138.552 1.0 EASTERN HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 5.8 2011/03/15 13:27:54 37.626 142.320 1.0 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 4.6 2011/03/15 12:51:46 38.925 144.209 25.2 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 4.9 2011/03/15 12:33:11 38.977 142.631 24.9 NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 5.2 2011/03/15 11:46:20 40.530 142.689 13.7 NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 5.0 2011/03/15 11:43:48 37.819 145.118 18.2 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 2.9 2011/03/15 11:32:53 62.741 -149.474 65.2 CENTRAL ALASKA
MAP 5.2 2011/03/15 11:06:16 37.145 142.375 22.3 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 5.2 2011/03/15 10:50:00 35.593 141.889 24.9 NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 4.8 2011/03/15 10:31:28 35.798 140.647 42.2 NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 6.0 2011/03/15 09:49:54 37.348 142.406 15.3 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 4.6 2011/03/15 09:46:27 37.777 143.819 34.8 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 4.7 2011/03/15 09:16:01 35.601 141.887 30.7 NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 5.3 2011/03/15 08:48:25 37.500 143.642 35.3 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 4.8 2011/03/15 08:36:23 36.654 142.537 35.3 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 5.2 2011/03/15 08:01:47 40.436 143.240 29.5 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 4.9 2011/03/15 07:35:45 37.485 142.324 37.7 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 4.6 2011/03/15 07:18:14 36.100 142.295 37.5 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 5.0 2011/03/15 07:08:29 38.336 142.211 30.1 NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 4.9 2011/03/15 07:03:48 36.814 140.383 22.7 NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 4.7 2011/03/15 06:56:32 36.864 140.363 30.0 NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 4.9 2011/03/15 06:40:27 37.517 143.732 29.9 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 2.5 2011/03/15 06:34:03 57.988 -154.219 60.6 KODIAK ISLAND REGION, ALASKA
MAP 2.5 2011/03/15 05:47:49 18.638 -66.731 73.0 PUERTO RICO REGION
MAP 4.6 2011/03/15 05:40:25 37.944 141.965 25.0 NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 3.0 2011/03/15 05:37:47 19.123 -66.485 21.0 PUERTO RICO REGION
MAP 4.9 2011/03/15 05:32:50 -3.587 131.289 33.2 CERAM SEA, INDONESIA
MAP 5.0 2011/03/15 05:31:25 36.162 142.232 25.2 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 5.0 2011/03/15 03:25:20 1.781 31.298 10.1 LAKE ALBERT REGION, UGANDA
MAP 5.1 2011/03/15 03:21:35 37.680 143.941 25.0 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 4.7 2011/03/15 02:17:15 36.037 141.615 24.9 NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 4.7 2011/03/15 01:35:45 39.550 142.698 25.0 NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
MAP 2.5 2011/03/15 00:54:56 32.512 -115.697 5.2 BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting P451:


Except unlike say Katrina and Americans who act like absolute jerks killing and hoarding - the Japanese are a very orderly and helpful of thy neighbor society. They are unlikely to riot or commit crimes.

There may be an isolated act of desperation but you're not going to see the chaos you can expect in other countries.

True. I think another thing holding back relief effors is the simple shock of it. The magnitude is just staggering.

Also, in talking with others, many people dismissed the severity, because "its Japan, they get quakes all the time", and "Japan is a rich country, its not like Haiti or some other third-world country". Its sad, but that is how many people feel. Whenever I hear that kind of drivel, I am quick to remind them about the international support the US got after Katrina, 9/11, and the two most recent major quakes on the west coast. We're a rich country too, but disasters are disasters. People still need help.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5881
Quoting FloridaHeat:
What did Japan do to deserve this?

They perched their country right at the edge of a subduction zone. That's all.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13526
Quoting FloridaHeat:
What did Japan do to deserve this?


Good Morning everyone! I don't like what might be coming to the West Coast of the ConUs for a big one as well. Its really the only sector of the Ring of Fire that has not had a large quake for some time. Not putting out fear just stating the facts.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
766. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
It was overland, maybe that is why the severity level is at 6.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FloridaHeat:
What did Japan do to deserve this?

I wasn't aware earthquakes were sentient, and could choose where to strike, and when.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5881
Quoting FloridaHeat:
What did Japan do to deserve this?


Nothing, its just part of living in a dangerous world and a dangerous Universe. Sadly, we are reminded just how dangerous the natural world can really be sometimes.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
5.8 is not that strong considering they have had a lot of 6+ lately ... I was thinking a 6+ on there scale would be a 7+ on our scale
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
What did Japan do to deserve this?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 811 - 761

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.