Favorable winds over Japan carrying radioactivity out to sea

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

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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

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Quoting pottery:

Indeed!
Historic Time, right now.
And no end in the near future, with any of it.
All seems reasonably quiet here, though...
Keeping well. Hope you and yours are too.


Funny thing about living on a small island,things seem pretty calm most days. All is well here. Who could think of complaining when you could be getting shot at in search of democracy or freezing cold without food or shelter with no expectation of rescue any time soon.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
There have been so many conflicting reports. I don’t know what to believe.

A good place to start: don't believe apologetic press reports from the nuclear industry. If they had cared more about safety than about profit, this wouldn't be happening, period. As in most cases, it's better to go with neutrally scientific sources.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13461
Having been in the "Big Picture" once,,my perspective on Helo's sandbagging a Broken I-wall Levee are not too different from those tonight.

Some things stay with a man,..

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
Quoting Grothar:


World War II seems to come to mind. Was it 47 countries at war with each other.


Somewhere around there. Remember, the world had less countries than we do now.

(Just checked Wikipedia, it was ~ 60.)
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Quoting Grothar:


World War II seems to come to mind. Was it 47 countries at war with each other.


At least today most countries are too broke to wage war anymore.
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What exactly is the radiation doing to the ocean? Is seafood being impacted?
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Quoting kmanislander:
Hi Pottery,

I can't believe the news these days. Gaddafi, Bahrain, Japan, New Zealand, Egypt, possibly finding Atlantis. Obviously some of this is much more important than others but when has the world been so disquieted ?.


Indeed!
Historic Time, right now.
And no end in the near future, with any of it.
All seems reasonably quiet here, though...
Keeping well. Hope you and yours are too.
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Not much conflicting on the Dead and Damage from the Event..so far.


The Numbers and imagery say it all.







Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
Quoting Grothar:


Here is a chap from the past. Don't fret none kman. Each generation has its disasters. A little difficult for us to put this all into perspective, but we just all hope they arrive at a solution soon.


There is no solution to widespread radiation contamination of the environnment other than time and barring a miracle of sorts that is the future for huge expanses of Japan once the wind switches around on Saturday.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
There have been so many conflicting reports. I don’t know what to believe.


Wise words, Geoff. Couldn't have put it better myself.
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there are a couple of updates on the Portlight blog regarding efforts to help those with disabilities there...because of some unfortunate cultural issues regarding people with disabilities there those efforts need to be somewhat low key...
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
There have been so many conflicting reports. I don’t know what to believe.


I was watching Nightly News earlier, and the U.S. is saying that the nuclear plant situation is worse than what Japan is saying. Whoever's true, it's not good at all.
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Quoting kmanislander:
Hi Pottery,

I can't believe the news these days. Gaddafi, Bahrain, Japan, New Zealand, Egypt, possibly finding Atlantis. Obviously some of this is much more important than others but when has the world been so disquieted ?.



World War II seems to come to mind. Was it 47 countries at war with each other.
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Hi Pottery,

I can't believe the news these days. Gaddafi, Bahrain, Japan, New Zealand, Egypt, possibly finding Atlantis. Obviously some of this is much more important than others but when has the world been so disquieted ?.

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Quoting srada:
I hope this isnt a stupid question but dosent the govt have nuclear resistance aircraft? Or the airplanes that can drop the bomb? If so, Why cant those be used to dump the water?


they move too fast
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Quoting kmanislander:
Good evening everyone.

I was just about to post about Japan when I received a text alert from LIME, our ISP, advising that I might experience slower DSL and mobile internet access due to loss of some capacity on the international cable system, result of earthquake off the Dominican Republic.

Has the world gone nuts or what ??

Chile, New Zealand, Japan

California next ??


Here is a chap from the past. Don't fret none kman. Each generation has its disasters. A little difficult for us to put this all into perspective, but we just all hope they arrive at a solution soon.
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I fear that the problems in Japan may worsen regardless of what happens with the nuclear plant. Many people are leaving the country entirely. Who will be left to rebuild?

I also read an article to say that donations to help Japan have been slow to come in compared to Haiti. I assume the general wealth in Japan is the cause, but they still need our help.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
hello old friend been a long winter

yes things are coming undone it seems a little


No kidding. Good to see so many on tonight but not good the reason for our presence.

The Japanese reality is that eventually they will recover from the flooding. We did after Ivan covered about 60% of the island. Of course, we didn't have snow and winter to deal with and recovery on a small island is many times quicker than trying to provide shelter, food, warm clothing etc for hundreds of thousands in the dead of winter.

The nuclear problem is another thing altogether.So far, favourable winds have kept most of the threat offshore but that won't last. Generations of people may never return to their homes.
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There have been so many conflicting reports. I don’t know what to believe.
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Quoting Patrap:
Emerging coverage from Japan offers a moving example of ultimate dog loyalty, and clearly illustrates the challenges faced by animal victims of the earthquake and tsunami.

Both Dogs were rescued and are recovering.



That video really got deep in our hearts, here... specially in my daughter's. Last week we lost "Lola" our neighbor's dog... She was so active and suddenly she got this big mass, started bleading internally and died... Good that both dogs are OK
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Quoting kmanislander:
Good evening everyone.

I was just about to post about Japan when I received a text alert from LIME, our ISP, advising that I might experience slower DSL and mobile internet access due to loss of some capacity on the international cable system, result of earthquake off the Dominican Republic.

Has the world gone nuts or what ??

Chile, New Zealand, Japan

California next ??

Greetings..
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591. srada
I hope this isnt a stupid question but dosent the govt have nuclear resistance aircraft? Or the airplanes that can drop the bomb? If so, Why cant those be used to dump the water?
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Isn't Sat the day of the "Supermoon" ?
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Quoting kmanislander:
Good evening everyone.

I was just about to post about Japan when I received a text alert from LIME, our ISP, advising that I might experience slower DSL and mobile internet access due to loss of some capacity on the international cable system, result of earthquake off the Dominican Republic.

Has the world gone nuts or what ??

Chile, New Zealand, Japan

California next ??
hello old friend been a long winter

yes things are coming undone it seems a little
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Link


Latest Quakes Worldwide
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Im not sure of the Image accuracy but my thoughts on it are grim.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
Good evening everyone.

I was just about to post about Japan when I received a text alert from LIME, our ISP, advising that I might experience slower DSL and mobile internet access due to loss of some capacity on the international cable system, result of earthquake off the Dominican Republic.

Has the world gone nuts or what ??

Chile, New Zealand, Japan

California next ??
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Patrap:



Note where the Spent fuel Pools are Located and remember the Explosions..






569 - Did you notice in the picture you posted as to how the smoke cloud dove down, its shape and the items shown on the leading edge?

I wonder how many pods were in that building? 2 perhaps?

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Quoting SquallyWx:


Oh my goodness, I read that and for a split second thought it was real and my heart just sank. Please do not do that.


I retired the post, I really felt bad after posting it...
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03/16/2011
OPERATION TOMODACHI

U.S. Navy sailors move food and water onto an HH-60H Seahawk helicopter aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in the Pacific Ocean, March 15, 2011. The Ronald Reagan is off the coast of Japan providing humanitarian assistance in Japan to support Operation Tomodachi. The sailors are assigned to Anti-Submarine Squadron 4. U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Michael Feddersen

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
03/16/2011
OFUNATO AFTERMATH

The remnants of a house lie amidst the rubble in Ofunato, Japan, March 15, 2011, following an 8.9-magnitude earthquake, which triggered a devastating tsunami. Teams from the United States, United Kingdom and China are on scene to assist in searching for missing residents. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew M. Bradley

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
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Quoting sunlinepr:

That could be bad, but what about:

New 9.1 mega earthquake felt in the island of Tokushima, generates a 15 foot Tsunami and 4 new nuclear plants go nuts...
By the way PyongYang fired 1 atomic warhead to Japan, to avenge Japan's spread of fallout contaminating the North Korean air...


Oh my goodness, I read that and for a split second thought it was real and my heart just sank. Please do not do that.
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Quoting aquak9:
These are the nuclear industry's contingency plans, huh? Great work, that. Looks to me like the designers and regulators covered all the bases... :-\

Same song, second verse- queue memory reply of Deepwater Horizon disaster, please


Yep!!
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What exactly are they spraying water into if the containment vessel in #3 is still intact? I understand #4 being open to the air.
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Appologies for making another post on climate change at this critical time, but this video has a good explanation on how Arctic warming can cause colder winters over the Northern Hemispheric mid-latitude continents.

Climate Change: Arctic warming pushes winter weather further south

Now, the big question: what causes are mainly responsible for the most recent phase of Arctic warming and what proportion of those causes are anthropogenic?
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2835
Quoting sunlinepr:

That could be bad, but what about:

New 9.1 mega earthquake felt in the island of Tokushima, generates a 15 foot Tsunami and 4 new nuclear plants go nuts...
By the way PyongYang fired 1 atomic warhead to Japan, to avenge Japan's spread of fallout contaminating the North Korean air...


LMFAO No more chocolate for you!!
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U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Vontez Morrow preps U-2 pilot U.S. Air Force Capt. Beau Block for a humanitarian mission to Japan from Osan Air Base, South Korea, March 13, 2011. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Paul Holcomb

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
These are the nuclear industry's contingency plans, huh? Great work, that. Looks to me like the designers and regulators covered all the bases... :-\

Same song, second verse- queue memory reply of Deepwater Horizon disaster, please
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Retired
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Watching the Chinooks drop the water from 200' feet above the reactors is like watching a guy atop a 10-story building trying to douse the flame in a covered, ground-level barbecue with a water pistol.

Awesome. Maybe next we can send a bunch of hazmat-suited guys in there with slingshots and water balloons. Or hire some Native Americans to do a rain dance.

These are the nuclear industry's contingency plans, huh? Great work, that. Looks to me like the designers and regulators covered all the bases... :-\
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13461
Fukushima Daiichi Reactor Number Three uses MOX fuel...heads up.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2835
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592



Note where the Spent fuel Pools are Located and remember the Explosions..




Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
March 16, 2011
NRC: No water in spent fuel pool of Japan plant



(AP) WASHINGTON (AP) The chief of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Wednesday that all the water is gone from one of the spent fuel pools at Japan's most troubled nuclear plant, but Japanese officials denied it.

If NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko is correct, this would mean there's nothing to stop the fuel rods from getting hotter and ultimately melting down. The outer shell of the rods could also ignite with enough force to propel the radioactive fuel inside over a wide area.

Jaczko did not say Wednesday how the information was obtained, but the NRC and U.S. Department of Energy both have experts on site at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex of six reactors. He said the spent fuel pool of the complex's Unit 4 reactor has lost water.

Jaczko said officials believe radiation levels are extremely high, and that could affect workers' ability to stop temperatures from escalating.

Japan's nuclear safety agency and Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the complex, deny water is gone from the pool. Utility spokesman Hajime Motojuku said the "condition is stable" at Unit 4.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
Be prepared for a somewhat long read.

Fukushima - A simple explanation

It also contains the March 15th update from MITNSE


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

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