Favorable winds over Japan carrying radioactivity out to sea

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:16 PM GMT on March 16, 2011

Share this Blog
3
+

If there is going to be a major nuclear disaster with massive release of radioactivity into the atmosphere from Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, today would be the best day meteorologically for this to occur. The low pressure system that brought rain and several inches of snow to Japan yesterday has moved northeastwards out to sea, and high pressure is building in. The clockwise flow of air around the high pressure system approaching Japan from the southwest is driving strong northwesterly winds of 10 - 20 mph over the region. These winds will continue through Thursday, and will take radiation particles emitted by the stricken reactors immediately out to sea, without lingering over Japan. Since high pressure systems are regions of sinking air, the radiation will stay close to the ocean surface as the air spirals clockwise over the Pacific. The contaminated air will remain over the ocean for at least five days, which is plenty of time for the radiation to settle out to the surface.


Figure 1. Surface weather map for 8am EDT today, taken from the 6-hour forecast from this morning's 6 UTC run of the GFS model. A high pressure system to the southwest of Japan, in combination with a low pressure system to the northeast are driving strong northwesterly surface winds over the country. Image is from our wundermap with the "Model" layer turned on. The lines are sea-level pressure (blue contours, 4 mb interval) and 1000 to 500 mb thickness (yellow contours, 60 m interval). Thickness is a measure of the temperature of the lower atmosphere, and a thickness of 5400 meters is usually close to where the dividing line between rain and snow occurs.

Thursday night and Friday morning (U.S. time), the high pressure system moves over Japan, allowing winds to weaken and potentially grow calm, increasing the danger of radioactivity building up over regions near and to the north of the nuclear plant. On Friday, the high departs and a moist southwesterly flow of air will affect Japan. These southwesterly winds will blow most of the radiation out to sea, away from Tokyo. Southwesterly winds will continue through Sunday, when the next major low pressure system is expected to bring heavy precipitation to the country. Beginning Thursday night, the sinking airmass over Japan will be replaced a large-scale area of rising air, and any radiation emitted late Thursday through Friday will be carried aloft towards Alaska and eastern Russia by this southwesterly flow of rising air.

Ground-level releases of radioactivity are typically not able to be transported long distances in significant quantities, since most 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 hundred meters 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. I've made trajectory plots for the next three days assuming two possible release altitudes--a surface-based release near 10 meters, which should be the predominant altitude in the current situation, and a higher release altitude of 300 meters, which might occur from an explosion and fire from a Chernobyl-style incident. Given that the radioactivity has to travel 3000 miles to reach Anchorage, Alaska, and 5000 miles to reach California, a very large amount of dilution will occur, along with potential loss due to rain-out. Any radiation at current levels of emission that might reach these places may not even be detectable, much less be a threat to human health. A Chernobyl-level disaster in Japan would certainly be able to produce detectable levels of radiation over North America, but I strongly doubt it would be a significant concern for human health. The Chernobyl disaster only caused dangerous human health impacts within a few hundred miles of the disaster site, and the distance from Japan to North America is ten times farther than that.


Figure 2. Five-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 300 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Wednesday, March 16, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes spiral clockwise around the high pressure system to the southwest of Japan and stay near the surface. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.


Figure 3. Five-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 300 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Thursday, March 17, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes initially spiral clockwise around the high pressure system to the southwest of Japan and stay near the surface. By Saturday, though, the plumes get caught in a southwesterly flow of air in advance of an approaching low pressure system. Ascending air lifts the plumes to high altitudes, where winds are stronger and rapid long-range transport occurs. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.


Figure 4. Five-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 300 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Friday, March 18, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes get caught in a southwesterly flow of air in advance of an approaching low pressure system. The plume emitted near the surface (red line) stays trapped near the surface, but the plume emitted at 300 meters is lifted to 3.5 km altitude by the rising air associated with the approaching low pressure system. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.

Resources
Seven-day weather forecast for Sendai near the Fukushima nuclear plant

The Austrian Weather Service is running trajectory models for Japan.

Current radar loops from the Japan Meteorological Agency

Rare subtropical cyclone forms near Brazil
An unusual low pressure system that came close to becoming a tropical storm is in the South Atlantic, a few hundred miles east of the coast of Brazil. The Brazilian Navy Hydrographic Center has officially named the system Subtropical Storm "Arani", but I'm not sure the low would have been named by NHC, since Arani has somewhat of a loose circulation and limited heavy thunderstorm activity. The storm is expected to move slowly eastward out to sea, and does not pose a threat to South America. The latest run of the GFDL model shows little development of Arani, and the storm is now encountering a frontal system, which is bringing 20 - 30 knots of wind shear. It is unlikely that Arani will become a tropical storm. Some runs of the GFDL last weekend were predicting Arani would intensify into a Category 3 hurricane; that's the first time I've even seen such a prediction for a South Atlantic storm. The metsul.com blog has more info on Arani, for those of you who read Portugese.


Figure 5. During the daytime on Tuesday 15 March 2011 at 1820 UTC the TRMM satellite flew over a rare cyclone labeled Arani in the South Atlantic. Arani had the appearance of a tropical cyclone but has been classified as a subtropical cyclone. NOAA's Satellite and Information Service classified Arani as a T1 on the Dvorak intensity scale which would indicate an estimated wind speed of about 29 kt (~33 mph). TRMM's Microwave Imager (TMI) and Precipitation Radar (PR) data were used in the image above to show rainfall near Arani. Image credit: NASA.

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: 265 - 215

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

Quoting hydrus:
And to top it all off, there is a squirrel attacking people in Vermont...Link


Now that's disturbing news...it may very well be the harbinger of the end...LOL
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
U.S. troops kept far away from Japan's burning nuclear reactors
By Larry Shaughnessy, CNN Pentagon Producer
March 16, 2011 2:31 p.m. EDT



Washington (CNN) -- Concerned about potential radiation exposure, the U.S. military will not allow troops to get within 50 miles of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Col. David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday.

The exclusion zone matches the area from which the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo is advising American citizens to evacuate, if at all possible.

As a further protective measure, prior to leaving on missions within 70 miles of the reactors, U.S. helicopter crews departing Naval Air Facility Atsugi were first given doses of potassium iodide to help protect their thyroid glands from possible exposure to radiation, Lapan said. The thyroid is particularly vulnerable to some kinds of radiation and the iodide reduces the risk of radiation illness.

Prior to Wednesday's missions, the only air crews that had been given potassium iodide were treated after being exposed to radiation, Lapan said, adding that when a sailor is given iodide is not an across-the-board policy.

"It was situational, based on the circumstances. They decide based on medical personnel who determine whether either afterward the tablets are something they can use as a precaution or if they can be used in a precautionary way," Lapan told reporters at the Pentagon.

Crews returned Wednesday with no sign of exposure, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Navy.

"None of the crews that came back today, including the crews given iodide in advance, showed any levels of contamination," said Lt. Anthony Falvo, a spokesman for the US 7th Fleet in Japan.

The only U.S. military assistance being provided to help Japanese authorities deal with the burning reactors is a pair of fire trucks from U.S. military bases in Japan that have been turned over to the Japanese. Japan has since asked for more pumps and hoses to go with the trucks, and Lapan said they are working to fulfill that request. No U.S. troops are part of the firefighting efforts.

The 7th Fleet now has 14 ships on station in the waters off the coast of Japan, including the USS Cowpens, which just joined the relief effort. A 15th ship, the USS Blue Ridge, is expected to arrive in a day or two.

It's unclear if the air crews who, prior to Wednesday, tested positive for radioactive contamination have been given a clean bill of health and clearance to fly missions again.

"It depends on the nature of the contamination, again if it's surface contamination, that can be taken care of with soap and water and disposing of your clothing, those types of things," Lapan said.

"That's different than ingesting (radioactive material), which is the reason they take the tablets."

Lapan said the Japanese government has not requested that the United States send military troops to help fight the reactor fires, but if a request was made, Washington would consider an exception to the exclusion zone.

"Remember, we're talking about the United States military -- we train and equip all of our people to operate in all kinds of environments. So we know how to measure, we know how to test, we know how to respond, we know how to take precautions," Lapan said.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129904
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting SaraGal:
The hardest thing for me is to get my mind around all the is happening in Japan and being unable to do anything to immediately 'fix it.' .. added to the understanding of 'half-life' effects ... are we seeing the unfolding of our Armageddon?


Nope, just life on this planet
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MrMixon:
I'm thinking it wasn't the magnitude, but the location of the epicenter that caught people's attention. This isn't the first-ever earthquake for the Montreal area, but it comes at a time when everyone is just a little jumpy about earthquakes in general, and with good reason.

Obviously there's no need to panic, but staying vigilant and informed is never a bad thing.




Gosh, I feel these all the time. They're nothing like the ones in Cali. snore is correct.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
258. JRRP
Quoting CFLWX:


CFS is trending toward El-Nino by Auguast as well now it seems. This will be critical to see if El-Nino will infact return come late summer into fall as the models are indicating.

yea but i think we will see neutral conditions
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hydrus:
And to top it all off, there is a squirrel attacking people in Vermont...Link


Let's not forget the wild turkeys we've got, they are still nasty Turkeys and aren't going anywhere quickly enough!

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting cat5hurricane:
1832: The AP news agency is quoting Tepco as saying a new power line is almost ready which could end the crisis. The disruption of power to the pumps which send coolant through the reactors is what led to their overheating.


This is the first good news in a long time.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
254. JRRP

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
252. JRRP
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:
On the other hand, 6 reactors are about to meltdown, thousands are dead, thousands more probably, infrastructure gone, infrastructure depleting, stocks are crashing, America is on brink of bankruptcy, funding is being cut across the board in all industries,and every damn hour there's an earthquake somewhere on the globe above a 3.0
And to top it all off, there is a squirrel attacking people in Vermont...Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
250. JRRP
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


ya got 5 minutes, haha
He was only off by a massive magnitude and a few thousand miles... no biggie.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The hardest thing for me is to get my mind around all the is happening in Japan and being unable to do anything to immediately 'fix it.' .. added to the understanding of 'half-life' effects ... are we seeing the unfolding of our Armageddon?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I'm thinking it wasn't the magnitude, but the location of the epicenter that caught people's attention. This isn't the first-ever earthquake for the Montreal area, but it comes at a time when everyone is just a little jumpy about earthquakes in general, and with good reason.

Obviously there's no need to panic, but staying vigilant and informed is never a bad thing.


Quoting NRAamy:
3.7?

snore.....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
On the other hand, 6 reactors are about to meltdown, thousands are dead, thousands more probably, infrastructure gone, infrastructure depleting, stocks are crashing, America is on brink of bankruptcy, funding is being cut across the board in all industries,and every damn hour there's an earthquake somewhere on the globe above a 3.0
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3.7?

snore.....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Good catch. Yes, I would not be at all surprised to learn that the structural trough that the Mississippi River follows through the New Madrid system is geologically connected to the structural trough occupied by the St. Lawrence River. The two troughs are roughly in line with one another and form a nice western boundary to the Appalachian Mountains. Will have to do some digging later to see if this connection has already been made by geologists. Will let you know if I find anything.


Quoting AstroHurricane001:
I've been noticing that roughly five recent weak earthquakes including this one have formed a roughly straight line that stretches from the St. Lawrence-Ontario-Erie valley toward Michigan and central Arkansas over southwest to the recent Gulf of California earthquakes in northwestern Mexico.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
It's the end of the world!!

nah, no, nope, everything is fine. There is no radiation threat anywhere, the nuke plants are stable, the DOW Jones will skyrocket back up to record levels, everybody will have jobs, everybody will be happy, your income will NEVER decline, and our infrastructure is stronger than its ever been.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Dear Folks:
-- the alleged MIT report -- no, no. Below is a link to info, which will calrify the issue -- if you care to read through it all.

I'm copying from the TWITTER comment by Joi Ito -- you can check his creds; quite noteworthy.

"@robby1051 @gfasol Here's the Google cache about the strange story of Josef Oehmen http://bit.ly/f5AT5D "
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.
Magnitude
3.7
Date-Time
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 17:36:56 UTC
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 01:36:56 PM at epicenter
Location
45.609°N, 74.619°W
Depth
0 km (~0 mile) (poorly constrained)
Region
ONTARIO-QUEBEC BORDER REGION, CANADA
Distances
50 km (31 miles) W (262°) from Mirabel, Qu�bec, Canada
52 km (32 miles) WSW (249°) from Saint-J�r�me, Qu�bec, Canada
54 km (34 miles) NW (316°) from Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Qu�bec, Canada
69 km (43 miles) W (276°) from Laval, Qu�bec, Canada
82 km (51 miles) W (277°) from Montr�al, Qu�bec, Canada
Location Uncertainty
horizontal +/- 2.5 km (1.6 miles); depth +/- 5.3 km (3.3 miles)
Parameters
NST= 18, Nph= 31, Dmin=78.7 km, Rmss=0.89 sec, Gp=187°,
M-type="Nuttli" surface wave magnitude (mbLg), Version=a
Source
New England Seismic Network (NESN):
Weston Observatory of Boston College
Event ID
ne00001232

right at the surface
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Magnitude 3.7 - ONTARIO-QUEBEC BORDER REGION, CANADA
2011 March 16 17:36:56 UTC
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129904
Quoting Waltanater:
Looks like there might be another major EQ soon!! Based on recent activity, I predict a 7.8 ~ 8.2 mag earthquake within about an hour from now.

Lat: ~37
Long: ~142
Depth: ~19 miles

Good luck!


ya got 5 minutes, haha
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Skyepony:
#
1818: The US Environmental Protection Agency says it is increasing its monitoring of radiation along the western coast and Pacific territories, AP reports. However the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said it does not expect harmful levels to reach North America.


I know I'll be increasing my monitoring of radiation along the western coast (So Cal). Trust but verify and all that.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
An earthquake has been reported in western Quebec, with tremors extending from the greater Montreal region to Ottawa.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129904
Salon has this to say about that Oehmen "Don't worry; be happy" post stating there is no threat from fallout:

"Oehmen's essay has also been seized on by pro-nuclear partisans. A website called TheEnergyCollective.com -- which is run by Siemens AG, a major supplier for the nuclear industry -- republished Oehmen's blog post, and that version of the post alone was subsequently shared on social media sites 35,000 times. It was also posted on a pro-nuclear site called bravenewclimate.com"

Surprise! :-\

Yes, Oehmen works for MIT. But he's a finance guy, and has nothing beyond a layman's knowledges of nuclear energy. IOW, his blog post is yet another example--ala AGW--where a guy concerned with only money issues opens his mouth to speak of scientific things about which he knows next to nothing. The pro-pollution people may jump on the bandwagon, but that certainly lends no credibility...

(For what it's worth, I have no problem with the MIT NSE site. Just the debunked Oehmen article.)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13805


Magnitude 3.7 - ONTARIO-QUEBEC BORDER REGION, CANADA
2011 March 16 17:36:56 UTC

I've been noticing that roughly five recent weak earthquakes including this one have formed a roughly straight line that stretches from the St. Lawrence-Ontario-Erie valley toward Michigan and central Arkansas over southwest to the recent Gulf of California earthquakes in northwestern Mexico.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2836
Quoting P451:


I think I'd rather trust the experts and those on the scene over some kids at MIT.

The only conspiracy theories out there is that the media is somehow blowing a non-event into a catastrophe that does not exist or that the oil companies are staging all the coverage of the event so nuclear energy is terminated worldwide and everyone begs oil companies to build power plants.





Try reading what "some kids at MIT" are saying; they're simply reporting what has been stated by the "experts" and providing explanations of the events. The NSE site is well put together and informative
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
If I may momentarily digress from the mainstream of this afternoon's symposium, may I present a minor tidbit of tropical weather news:

As mentioned earlier, the names Igor and Tomas have been retired by the WMO.

--There have now been 75 storm names retired, with 25 of those in just the past ten years.

--Igor is the eighth 'I' storm retired, and the sixth in the past ten seasons.

--Tomas is the first 'T' storm retired (only one storm with a letter beyond 'T' has been retired, 2005's Wilma).

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/retirednames.shtml
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13805
226. Skyepony (Mod)
#
1818: The US Environmental Protection Agency says it is increasing its monitoring of radiation along the western coast and Pacific territories, AP reports. However the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said it does not expect harmful levels to reach North America.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Japan NHK LIVE English USTREAM feed
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129904
Quoting TampaSpin:


We will agree to disagree........read the article i just posted as well!


This is not an investment forum, so this will be my last comment on this, and it's fine if we disagree. However, the article suggests that there will be a flight to quality into US Treasuries. I agree with this, and that would be supportive of the USD. The only thing catching a bid today is the US Dollar and Treasuries. All the money coming out of equities is heading for safety. I'm in cash, and have been since the first reactor news. The unfolding nuclear disaster in Japan is likely to have a massive deflationary impact if it continues on its current trajectory. Take it to an investment forum please.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
DOW 11,591.89 -263.53 -2.22%
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting WatchingThisOne:


I disagree regarding the USD and US Treasuries. And "NOT A PRETTY PICTURE!" is pushing the point a little hard for this forum.


We will agree to disagree........read the article i just posted as well!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Skyepony:
Here's the Flexpart model run for the explosion on the 14th (posted the one for the one on the 13th earlier)


ugh. So Cal gets a visit from that one if the forecast pans out.

Edit: appreciate these, Skye, keep it up please.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TampaSpin:


The impact on Major US companies are not currently measurable. The correct thing is to protect ones assests. Nothing wrong with that!!!!

As i mentioned earlier.....The Country of Japan owns a great deal of US Bonds that they will probably be cashing to rebuild their country. Hope you understand the position the US will be in when this occurs. The US dollar will be worth little while very high inflation takes over.....NOT A PRETTY PICTURE!


I disagree regarding the USD and US Treasuries. And "NOT A PRETTY PICTURE!" is pushing the point a little hard for this forum.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 265 - 215

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

Local Weather

Overcast
38 °F
Overcast

JeffMasters's Recent Photos

Lake Effort Snow Shower Over Windsor, Ontario
Sunset on Dunham Lake
Pictured Rocks Sunset
Sunset on Lake Huron