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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Why didn't they airlift a big ole generator or 2 to begin with?
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Quoting SquallyWx:
What is the latest on the reactor? Earlier I saw that they were hooking up power and the problem would be solved, but that doesn't seem to be the case any longer? I do not understand exactly what is happening and why every news stations says something totally different.


EU energy chief says Japan reactor “out of control”
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Europe’s energy chief warned on Wednesday of a further catastrophe at Japan’s nuclear site “in the coming hours” but his spokeswoman said he had no specific or privileged information on the situation.

“In the coming hours there could be further catastrophic events which could pose a threat to the lives of people on the island,” Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told a committee of the European Parliament.

“There is as yet no panic, but Tokyo, with 35 million people, is the largest metropolis in the world,” he said.

When asked, his spokeswoman said his prediction of a catastrophe in the hours ahead was not based on any specific privileged information.

Oettinger’s experts are relying largely on a mixture of reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the international media to monitoring Japan’s nuclear crisis.

He said the nuclear site was “effectively out of control,” with the cooling systems not working. “As a result we are somewhere between a disaster and a major disaster,” he said.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
IAEA Update on Japan Earthquake

Staff Report


Japanese Earthquake Update (16 March 22:00 UTC)

Temperature of Spent Fuel Pools at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

Spent fuel that has been removed from a nuclear reactor generates intense heat and is typically stored in a water-filled spent fuel pool to cool it and provide protection from its radioactivity. Water in a spent fuel pool is continuously cooled to remove heat produced by spent fuel assemblies. According to IAEA experts, a typical spent fuel pool temperature is kept below 25 C under normal operating conditions. The temperature of a spent fuel pool is maintained by constant cooling, which requires a constant power source.

Given the intense heat and radiation that spent fuel assemblies can generate, spent fuel pools must be constantly checked for water level and temperature. If fuel is no longer covered by water or temperatures reach a boiling point, fuel can become exposed and create a risk of radioactive release. The concern about the spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi is that sources of power to cool the pools may have been compromised.

The IAEA can confirm the following information regarding the temperatures of the spent nuclear fuel pools at Units 4, 5 and 6 at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant:

Unit 4
14 March, 10:08 UTC: 84 C
15 March, 10:00 UTC: 84 C
16 March, 05:00 UTC: no data
Unit 5
14 March, 10:08 UTC: 59.7 C
15 March, 10:00 UTC: 60.4 C
16 March, 05:00 UTC: 62.7 C
Unit 6
14 March, 10:08 UTC: 58.0 C
15 March, 10:00 UTC: 58.5 C
16 March, 05:00 UTC: 60.0 C

The IAEA is continuing to seek further information about the water levels, temperature and condition of all spent fuel pool facilities at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355
U.S. Marines load a pallet of bottled water and hazard protection gear into a KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft on U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Japan, March 16, 2011. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dengrier Baez



Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355
What is the latest on the reactor? Earlier I saw that they were hooking up power and the problem would be solved, but that doesn't seem to be the case any longer? I do not understand exactly what is happening and why every news stations says something totally different.
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..."O' Death"..
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Keeper- when Death comes for me, please tell him to be gentle with my soul.
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Quoting Patrap:
Split Images

Chernobyl 86 Left,,Japan Reactor 2011 right





pretty much looks like the same thing to me
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@ Reuters : FLASH: Reuters witness says tremor shakes buildings in Chilean capital Santiago


USGS Magnitude 5.3
Date-Time

* Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 22:36:16 UTC
* Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 07:36:16 PM at epicenter

Location 32.469 S, 71.424 W
Depth 24.7 km (15.3 miles)
Region VALPARAISO, CHILE
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355
Well I suppose!! and here's one for you to mull over, if the explosions threw the spent rods all over the place as seems to probably be the case then they aren't going to melt down as they will be in diverse places on the ground and as such wont be able to generate 'communal heat' to melt down.

Somebody, one day, will have to collect them but that's their future not the now!

By the plants exploding the eventual consequences of this event may have been lessened, the only really big problem is what is going to happen to the reactor with the plutonium mix in it as that might burn for a long time? I of all this thing don't like that reactor the most.
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Complete Update

Mag 5+ earthquakes only displayed.





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us news conference evacuate larger area 50miles " extremely dire" good day
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Split Images

Chernobyl 86 Left,,Japan Reactor 2011 right





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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
everthing was blasted away or apart nothing is operable there at least in the more severly damaged enclosures anyway


Note the post 433 picture. In this at the left hand side of the photo there is a very large lump of something falling down.

We have discussed this over here quite a bit and it would seem to be a very heavy object and not part of the buildings cladding! I now postulate that it might be part of the spent fuel rod containment vessel and if so those rods will be scattered all over the place and they are 'bad news'
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Quoting PlazaRed:


Trying to use the words 'common sense' sparingly but if you look at this photo at 438 and try and imagine that there is a pool of water on the top of these buildings that it is maintaining these spent rods at a safe temp. level then I would ask you to please post how you arrive at that conclusion?

I have seen a few of these photos now from different sides of the buildings and it seems that the upper parts of the buildings are not even there!!
everthing was blasted away or apart nothing is operable there at least in the more severly damaged enclosures anyway
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
Quoting weatherboy1992:


No. A geiger counter requires a tube of inert gas, like helium, neon or argon. A charged particle or energetic gamma or X-ray photon makes the gas briefly conductive. The tube then amplifies this conduction through a cascade effect and creates a current pulse, which registers as a click, or can be used to move an indicator needle.

Your phone doesn't have those things in it. The 'geiger counter app' is a fake toy to make your phone click.


thank you. it does have a metal detector app and that works, tho how is a mystery too. but it does beep when i pass it over metal. i wonder about ocean currents and the "waste" from the rods. I have seen weather maps showing where the wind could blow radiation but not where it could float to?
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Quoting twincomanche:


I apologize if I offended. Everyone is a little tense. We do all need to take a deep breath including me.

True, sorry bloggers if you were offended by this, I only intended to point out a flaw
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Quoting Patrap:
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.



Trying to use the words 'common sense' sparingly but if you look at this photo at 438 and try and imagine that there is a pool of water on the top of these buildings that it is maintaining these spent rods at a safe temp. level then I would ask you to please post how you arrive at that conclusion?

I have seen a few of these photos now from different sides of the buildings and it seems that the upper parts of the buildings are not even there!!
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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.

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hey i downloaded a geiger counter free app on my droid and it is making occasional geiger counter sounds. could it be for real?
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WMO someone needs to retire you, you have turned the basic concepts of hurricane naming into a political game that ignores many of the poorer and "insignificant" countries. Hanna killed 500, Gordon Killed 1,000 Matt killed 200, and Karl caused 5.6 billion dollars in damage. When you don't retire these names you are implying lives and money in these countries are not as important as in others.
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355
Here's your Oil

WTI Crude Oil
$98.27 ▲1.09
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what gets me is when people say something could never happen. how do you KNOW it could NEVER happen. has anything quite like this happened before? For one, the proximity. seems like one big heat source could ignite or exacerbate others. I am just speculating and I am nowhere near knowlegeable about this. But I am also skeptical when someone speaks authoritatively that something won't happen... because almost every day of the week something happens that supposedly cant ever happen. Every time a bumblebee flies he breaks that rule.
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423. Were all three of the exploded reactor buildings designed the same way? Did all three lose their tops (I know at least two have)? If so, the contents of at least two and maybe three of their spent fuel pools may have been spread across the site due to the explosive "untopping" of those buildings.

What a mess...
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Here's your DOW Jones

11,613.30 -242.12 (-2.04%)
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I wish I knew more about what is really happening in Japan. Myself and many others have never encountered this nuclear problem ,let alone how to spell it. I have been reading constantly trying to get into the click...So confusing. I am sure I will ask stupid questions, and I hope I am listening to the correct knowledgable person. So far I think Patrapseems to be in the grove of things...
If the cores continue burning what in the world can stop it? Do the burn forever and ever??
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I think it's too late, too many days have gone by to take care of the problem, even if they do get that power line hook up ready to bring in the massive water, it's too late isn't it?
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Quoting MrMixon:
414.

Pat, have you read/heard any explanation for why there are three distinct "bangs" audible in that video?


Most likely a 3 Boom echo with a sensitive mic ..

But thats my op only.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355
Note where the Spent fuel Pools are Located and remember the Explosions..


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414.

Pat, have you read/heard any explanation for why there are three distinct "bangs" audible in that video?
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Japanese Official: Most Dangerous Reactor May Have Ruptured, Leaking Radiation
Mar. 16 2011 - 2:12 pm


The number 3 nuclear reactor at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi complex is feared damaged and leaking radioactive steam, according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.

While all six of the nuclear reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi complex contain dangerous amounts of radioactive materials, the threat of a catastrophic failure at number 3 is particularly worrisome. That’s because No. 3 alone uses a fuel containing plutonium — a toxic metal that, if inhaled, remains in the body and can cause many forms of cancer.

The fuel in No. 3 is a blend of plutonium and reprocessed uranium, referred to as MOX (for mixed oxide) and manufactured by the French nuclear company AREVA. MOX fuel rods are also less stable than plutonium-free rods.

No. 3 contains 32 MOX fuel rods, or about 5 percent of the total, according to Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, an anti-nuclear power organization which is considered a credible source of information.

No U.S. nuclear power plants use MOX, stemming from a 1977 ban by the Carter Administration on reprocessing uranium for domestic nuclear power. That is scheduled to change, however, as the National Nuclear Security Administration gears up for a program to produce MOX fuel at a plant now under construction at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina. According to the NNSA’s website:

The MOX facility will blend surplus weapon-grade plutonium with depleted uranium oxide to make mixed oxide fuel for use in existing nuclear power plants. Once the MOX fuel assemblies have been irradiated in commercial power reactors, the plutonium can no longer be readily used for nuclear weapons. It will take approximately 15 years for the MOX facility to process the 34 MT of plutonium.

The MOX plant is due to start producing reprocessed fuel for use in civilian reactors in 2017 or 2018. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is considering using MOX fuel at five reactors:

* Sequoyah 1 & 2 (16 miles northeast of Chattanooga, Tennessee)
* Browns Ferry 1, 2, & 3 (32 miles west of Huntsville, Alabama)

According to an article in yesterday’s Augusta [Georgia] Chronicle, a utility in Richland, Washington, is also “mulling” the use MOX fuel.

Some “next generation” nuclear power plants are designed to use only MOX fuel, but proponents say that their designs are inherently safer, a notion dismissed earlier today by Edwin Lyman, a physicist at the Union of Concern Scientists.

“It is completely unclear whether new designs would actually have significant benefits” in situations similar to the one in Japan, Lyman said at a press conference. “They’ve never been built and operated anywhere.”

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Quoting JohnTucker:


Im sure it varies but at three mile island about 224 minutes after the emergency shutdown efforts (so possibly add a few more minutes of exposed rods, alarms, etc ) about 19,000 kilograms of material melted and relocated in about 2 minutes.

I think its best to assume at least part of the meltdowns occurred last week in the reactors, after the quake.

In the ponds the spent fuel can burn soon after being exposed to air depending on how recently it came out of a reactor.


where would they "relocate" to. and if they all melt together in a big lump, what then?
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Subtly, but yes. In fact, the next time you climb a flight of stairs or ride in an elevator the vertical movement of your mass relative to the rest of the earth has a subtle (VERY VERY subtle) influence on the rotation of the earth.

Think of an ice-skater extending and retracting their arms to control the speed of their spin. The effects from atmospheric and oceanic currents (and from this earthquake) are the same principle but, again, the effects are so subtle as to be undetectable without ultra-precise instruments.

Quoting AstroHurricane001:
Hmm, so shifts in ocean currents can affect Earth's rotation and axis! Very interesting indeed.
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Japan NHK TV English,LIVE USTREAM Feed
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355
It's too bad there aren't live camera feeds coming outta those buildings (no power for one, and a luxury item that's not really needed) but I'd like to see what the hell is going on in there and what it looks like.
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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.