Rain in Japan threatens to contaminate ground with radioactivity

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:28 PM GMT on March 15, 2011

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A low pressure system is located over Japan near Tokyo today, and the counterclockwise flow of air around this low is bringing easterly winds over the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which lies to the north-northeast of Tokyo. These easterly winds are blowing radioactivity inland over Japan. As the low tracks northeastward along the coast of Japan today, winds at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant will gradually shift to northeast and then northwest, which will move radiation towards Tokyo for several hours, which may be long enough for some radiation to reach the city. NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model shows that for a release of radioactivity at 50 meters altitude beginning at 21 GMT on Monday (when an explosion at the #2 reactor was recorded), with repeat releases simulated to occur every 2 hours thereafter, the plumes will stay to the north of Tokyo (Figure 1.) However, a more detailed dispersion model being run by the Austrian weather service shows that the plumes may affect much of the Tokyo area today. Both models predict that by 18 GMT today (2pm EDT), the threat to Tokyo will be over, with more westerly winds blowing the radioactive cloud out to sea.


Figure 1. Forecast movement of a plume of radioactive plume of air emitted at 50 meters altitude at 21 UTC Monday, March 14, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactivity is similated to be released every 2 hours thereafter, going out 24 hours. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.

As the low pressure system moves through Japan today, it will bring rain. Current radar loops from the Japan Meteorological Agency show a wide area of rain approaching Tokyo and the Fukushima nuclear plant. Rain is very efficient at removing radioactive particles from the air, and there is the threat of surface and ground water contamination where significant concentrations of radioactive material get rained out. By Wednesday, most of the rain will be gone, and predominately northwesterly winds will build in behind the departing low pressure system. This flow regime will stay in place for the remainder of the week, keeping radioactive emissions from the nuclear plant away from Tokyo, and headed out to sea at low altitudes near the surface.

Ground level releases of radioactivity are typically not able to be transported long distances in significant quantities, since much of the material settles to the ground a few kilometers from the source. If there is a major explosion with hot gases that shoots radioactivity several kilometers high, that would increase the chances for long range transport, since now the ground is farther away, and the particles that start settling out will stay in the air longer before encountering the ground. Additionally, winds are stronger away from ground, due to reduced friction and presence of the jet stream aloft. These stronger winds will transport radioactivity greater distances.


Figure 2. Seven-day forecast movement of a plume of radioactive plume of air emitted at 8am EDT (12 UTC) today at 50 meters altitude from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Flow of air in the warm and cold conveyor belts of the low pressure system affecting Japan are expected to loft radioactivity to 4 - 5 km altitude, where it will be transported thousands of miles over the coming week. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.

One case where a ground level release might get lofted to high altitudes is when the source region is located near an approaching low pressure system (extratropical cyclone), as is the case today. On the cold side of the approaching warm front, where the Fukushima nuclear plant is located today, lies a broad band of ascending air called the "cold conveyor belt." This conveyor belt can loft surface air to an altitude of several kilometers in a day, as seen in the trajectory plot in Figure 2. In addition, the "warm sector" of a low pressure system in front of the approaching cold front features a ribbon of ascending air about 100 - 200 km wide called a "warm conveyor belt", which is also capable of lofting surface air several kilometers high in a day. However, there is often considerable precipitation in both of these conveyor belts, which will tend to remove large quantities of radiation before it can be transported long distances. There will be some radiation from Japan lofted to high altitudes today by the low pressure system affecting the region, and if the radiation manages to escape being rained out, it could potentially be transported thousands of miles over the next week. A run of the HYSPLIT model following the path of a radioactive cloud emitted at 12 UTC (8am EDT) this morning shows the radioactivity being lofted 4 - 5 km in altitude and being transported over Alaska over the coming week. After a week of transport, this cloud will be considerably diluted, and I strongly doubt the radioactivity would be harmful to human health if rain or snow were to carry it to the ground over Alaska or Canada, assuming that the radiation levels currently being advertised at ground level in Japan are correct.

Jeff Masters

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778. caneswatch
3:22 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
I see JFLORIDA doesn't appreciate videos about what's going on with the situation over in Japan...........
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
777. Grothar
3:18 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting sunlinepr:


I was lying in the sofa, reading and suddenly I began hearing something like the sound of an approaching train.. A very fast / short vibration and the house began to shake and my wife and I were already in the front street....


Take care, sun!
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23726
776. Grothar
3:15 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting hydrus:
Good morning gro...Cloudy and cold here..The ITCZ showing itself rather well today...


Morning hydrus. Getting moist in the ITCZ I see.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23726
775. flsky
2:59 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Thank you so much for posting this. I have a much better understanding of what's going on now. I've also copied the lin to my sister who lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Quoting WatchingThisOne:


Morning, Aqua, hope you are feeling better.

Here is a 17-minute clip that gives a very good overview of the spent fuel rod pool problem. Rachel Maddow interviews Frank von Hippel (sp?) of Princeton. He knows about these things and has some sobering things to say. I recommend it.

msnbc: The Spent Fuel Rod Pool Problem ... it's a big one
Member Since: October 24, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1733
774. MagneticCrotchet
2:58 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting jwh250:
Why Fukushima’s “spent” fuel rods will continue to catch fire



Halfway through the article he says the the fuel rods "poos" on the upper floor.

Apologies, only I would notice that.
Member Since: May 18, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 25
773. Neapolitan
2:36 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
NEW BLOG ENTRY
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13277
772. sunlinepr
2:30 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting hydrus:
Good mornin PR. Have you ever felt an earthquake? If so, please describe it . I have never experienced one...(Thankfully).


I was lying in the sofa, reading and suddenly I began hearing something like the sound of an approaching train.. A very fast / short vibration and the house began to shake and my wife and I were already in the front street....
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9648
771. sunlinepr
2:23 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting JFLORIDA:
Someone made a comment a bit ago about the analysis here. Actually from my perspective, with Dr Masters blog topics and the referencing contributing bloggers add, the analysis here has been the best on the Internet, BY FAR. In scope and accuracy. When the best bloggers posted.

I dont read the second rate stuff, the vidiot posts and the social blogger rants.

There is some very good stuff posted here.


That's because everytime anyone contributes with some fact and no one refutes or gets into arguing against it, the blog moves towards being informative due to the effect of synergy..

syn·er·gy (snr-j)
n. pl. syn·er·gies
1. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.
2. Cooperative interaction among groups, especially among the acquired subsidiaries or merged parts of a corporation, that creates an enhanced combined effect.
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9648
770. jeffs713
2:20 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting CFLVVX:
Yes, I am Jeff9641, so what? They banned me.

And for good reason, if I must say so.

From "Rules of the Road", on this blog (right above where you make your posts.
Do not circumvent a ban. Most bans last 24 hours or less, please accept the ban. If you create a new username to circumvent a ban, you will be blocked from the site completely.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5792
769. RTLSNK
2:19 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
NEW BLOG - What are you still doing here? :)
Member Since: September 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 19517
768. hydrus
2:17 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting sunlinepr:
Little shake this morning...

Good mornin PR. Have you ever felt an earthquake? If so, please describe it . I have never experienced one...(Thankfully).
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19554
767. hcubed
2:15 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting CFLVVX:
Yes, I am Jeff9641, so what? They banned me.


And as the last name went, so goes this one...
Member Since: May 18, 2007 Posts: 289 Comments: 1639
766. sunlinepr
2:13 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Little shake this morning...

Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9648
765. Bobbyweather
2:11 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
According to the latest best track, 90Q (Arani) is strengthening right now, with maximum sustained winds of 40 kts and minimum pressure of 993 mb. It appears to be a tropical storm.
Member Since: September 7, 2006 Posts: 89 Comments: 2649
764. hydrus
2:05 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting Grothar:


No, I think that will do. How is everyone today?
Good morning gro...Cloudy and cold here..The ITCZ showing itself rather well today...
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19554
763. WatchingThisOne
2:05 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Tokyo supermarket (Reuters photo):

Member Since: July 15, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1259
761. caneswatch
2:02 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting Grothar:
This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.
Magnitude 5.0
Date-Time Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 13:42:32 UTC
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 09:42:32 AM at epicenter

Location 18.986°N, 67.954°W
Depth 33.7 km (20.9 miles)
Region DOMINICAN REPUBLIC REGION
Distances 89 km (56 miles) ENE (63°) from Hig�ey, La Altagracia, Dominican Republic
103 km (64 miles) NW (314°) from Rinc�n, PR
104 km (65 miles) NW (306°) from Aguadilla, PR
124 km (77 miles) ENE (60°) from La Romana, La Romana, Dominican Republic
200 km (124 miles) WNW (287°) from SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico


That's a little too close for comfort. Thankfully, it wasn't that bad for anyone.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
759. RitaEvac
2:02 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Someone posted this last night

Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
757. Grothar
1:57 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.
Magnitude 5.0
Date-Time Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 13:42:32 UTC
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 09:42:32 AM at epicenter

Location 18.986°N, 67.954°W
Depth 33.7 km (20.9 miles)
Region DOMINICAN REPUBLIC REGION
Distances 89 km (56 miles) ENE (63°) from Hig�ey, La Altagracia, Dominican Republic
103 km (64 miles) NW (314°) from Rinc�n, PR
104 km (65 miles) NW (306°) from Aguadilla, PR
124 km (77 miles) ENE (60°) from La Romana, La Romana, Dominican Republic
200 km (124 miles) WNW (287°) from SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23726
755. Grothar
1:51 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting jeffs713:

Yep, have to keep an eye on the wx anyway while I'm there. (going to NOLA to be in the St. Patrick's day parade, and see some of my wife's family)


You'll hear some good music there!!! Have fun.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23726
754. nrtiwlnvragn
1:45 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Link to map showing radiation readings in Japan. Cannot vouch for authenticity, you will need to make your own judgement. If not believeable, ignore it.
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 13 Comments: 10466
753. WatchingThisOne
1:45 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Supposedly real-time radiation levels. This might be worth following in the absence of better plume info.

Japan Radiation at targetmap.com
Member Since: July 15, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1259
752. jeffs713
1:39 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting P451:


When we get busy they get drowned out except for the few who keep falling for their tricks and engaging them in dialogue.

"What is XTRP model?"

And....someone will reply thinking they're helping someone actually looking for answers instead getting hooked like a fish.

Oh well...it'll always be here. Just gotta know how to spot 'em is all and don't respond. Gets easy after a while.


Yep, then you have people like me that mess with their heads for the amusement of everyone else.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5792
750. caneswatch
1:35 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting jeffs713:

Yep, have to keep an eye on the wx anyway while I'm there. (going to NOLA to be in the St. Patrick's day parade, and see some of my wife's family)


That sounds cool. Have a lot of fun while you're there.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
748. Chicklit
1:34 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
I am glad they got those workers out of there.
They should now be allowed to retire for life no matter how old they are.
Water hoses sound like a good idea until they can figure out some way to contain this.
Today is my first official day 'over the hill.'
I have taken the blood pressure medication the doctor prescribed.
Was thinking of that commercial, 'had Dad only taken his pill he would have saved us all a lot of grief!'
Anyway, bring in the heavy equipment imo.
The more the better.
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11047
747. jeffs713
1:33 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting Grothar:


Have a good time. It is good to get away sometimes. Will you check in from time to time?

Yep, have to keep an eye on the wx anyway while I'm there. (going to NOLA to be in the St. Patrick's day parade, and see some of my wife's family)
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5792
744. Grothar
1:30 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting jeffs713:

I'm doing well this morning. Going on vacation this afternoon, so I'm in a fantabulous mood for the morning.


Have a good time. It is good to get away sometimes. Will you check in from time to time?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23726
743. jeffs713
1:29 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting P451:


FloridaHeat

lol.

Heh. their act was almost funny at times. Just started to get irritating
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5792
741. jeffs713
1:28 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting Grothar:


No, I think that will do. How is everyone today?

I'm doing well this morning. Going on vacation this afternoon, so I'm in a fantabulous mood for the morning.

How about you?
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5792
739. Grothar
1:27 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting jeffs713:

I can think of a lot worse songs...
"La Cucaracha"
"Macarena"
"The song that never ends"

Shall I go on?


No, I think that will do. How is everyone today?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23726
737. jeffs713
1:24 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting cat5hurricane:

Yes, but not a good song to get stuck in your head.

I can think of a lot worse songs...
"La Cucaracha"
"Macarena"
"The song that never ends"

Shall I go on?
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5792
736. Grothar
1:23 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting jeffs713:
I can see clearly now the rain is gone... I can see all banned people in the way... They're gonna be banned, banned for a long long time... ;)


Yes, and I can see all the obstacles in your way.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23726
734. jeffs713
1:20 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting cat5hurricane:
It's all coming back to me now...
I can see clearly now the rain is gone... I can see all banned people in the way... They're gonna be banned, banned for a long long time... ;)
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5792
733. Grothar
1:20 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting cat5hurricane:
It's all coming back to me now...


That would make a good song title.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23726
731. aquak9
1:15 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
whether I feel good or not (and that is really sweet of ya'll) is not an issue

respect for DocMasters and the bloggers here, is my biggest concern

and if CFLWX won't give his previous handle (yet admits he had one) then he is as good as BANNED in my book

ya'll are really sweet, y'know that, right?
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25507
730. PakaSurvivor
1:11 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting jeffs713:
mental note: Do not cross Aqua when they don't feel good.


You know, I had the same thought! :)
Member Since: September 20, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 235
729. jeffs713
1:11 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


If I remember correctly, the handle was similar to yours and that handle predicted doom for Florida from every thunderstorm.

AH, yes, I remember now. That person who made me consider changing my entire handle to avoid being in any way related to them. That person whose blog is banned by WunderBlogAdmin.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5792

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About JeffMasters

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