Trace radioactivity from Japan likely over the Western U.S. today

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:11 PM GMT on March 18, 2011

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Traces of radioactive substances emitted by Japan's damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant will likely arrive over the Western U.S. today, carried by the prevailing west to east winds that have blown over the Pacific Ocean during the past week. Rainfall is expected over California this weekend, and it is likely that the rain will wash radioactive particles out of the air to the surface in quantities that will be detectable at several locations. I want to strongly emphasize that the radioactivity from Japan arriving over the U.S. over the next few days poses absolutely no threat to human health, and is present in only miniscule quantities. The radioactive plumes from Japan have had seven days to dilute over a 5000+ mile journey, and have been subject to deposition to the ocean due to gravity and rainfall along the way. Natural radiation is present in our environment every day, and the extra radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant will cause much less than a 1% increase this background radiation. Radioactive particles from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 were detected in North America ten days after that event, and caused no harmful effects. The radiation from Japan over U.S. during the next week should be at levels even lower than the Chernobyl fallout.


Figure 1. Backward trajectories for the air arriving at the surface (red line) and 300 meters altitude (blue line) in San Francisco, California on Saturday, March 19, at 11am PDT. According to the latest run of the GFS model, the air arriving in San Franciso tomorrow will have originated near the surface in northern Japan last Saturday, when radioactive emissions from the Fukushima nuclear plant began. The radioactive particles arriving in California will be in trace quantities, and will have no harmful effects on human health. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.

Radioactive plumes emitted from Japan's troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant continue to move offshore to the east over the Pacific Ocean today, thanks to predominantly west winds blowing at 5 - 15 mph. These winds are being driven by the clockwise flow of air around a surface high pressure system centered just southeast of Tokyo. As this high pressure system moves northeastwards, parallel to the Japanese coast, today through Saturday, winds will gradually shift to the southwest, keeping the radiation from the Fukushima plant blowing out to sea. As the winds shift to southwesterly, the sinking air over Japan will be replaced by rising air, and radioactive emissions will begin being lifted high in the atmosphere. Since there is less friction aloft, and the high speed winds of jet stream increase as the air moves higher in the atmosphere, this radiation will undergo long-range transport. Latest trajectory runs using NOAA's HYSPLIT model (Figures 2 - 4) show that radioactivity emitted today could wind up over Alaska after five days, and radioactive particles emitted on Saturday could make it to California by late next week. 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 if there is an explosion and major fire. However, the 5-day trek to Hawaii and California is 4000 - 5000 miles, and a tremendous amount of dispersion and dilution of the radioactive plume will occur. Given the current levels of radiation being emitted, any radioactivity reaching Hawaii or the U.S. may be difficult to detect, and will not be a threat to human health. Keep in mind also that the most dangerous radionuclide to human health in the radioactive plume--Iodine-131--has a half life of eight days, so will be reduced by at least 30% after 5 days of travel time.

Of much greater concern is the possibility of dangerous level of radiation over Japan. The next period of onshore winds that will blow radioactivity inland over Japan may occur beginning on Saturday night (U.S. time), continuing through Sunday, according to the latest run of the GFS model. The latest HYSPLIT trajectories show winds on Sunday may carry radiation from the disaster site southwards over Tokyo. A low pressure system is expected to bring considerable rain to Japan on Sunday, and this rain is likely to remove most of the radioactivity from the air where rain and radioactivity are both present. The winds associated with this low are difficult to predict at this time, since the winds will be light and variable.


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) 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 for 4 days then lifted to 4 km, but the plume emitted at 300 meters is lifted to 5 km altitude after 2 1/2 days by the rising air associated with the approaching low pressure system. 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) Saturday, March 19, 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 and lifted to 4 - 5 km altitude. The plumes are predicted to move over California and Mexico at high altitude. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.


Figure 4. One-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 100 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Sunday, March 20, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes get caught northerly winds, and the two lower altitude plumes move over Tokyo by 6 UTC on Monday, March 21. This is a low confidence forecast, as winds are expected to be light and somewhat variable on Sunday over Japan. 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

Jeff Masters

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Quoting PrivateIdaho:


Photobucket">


I don't care what your political beliefs are. THAT is funny!
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http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf15.html
Link

The main isotopes of plutonium are:

Pu-238, (half-lifea 88 years, alpha decay)
Pu-239, fissile (half-life 24,000 years, alpha decay)
Pu-240, fertile (half-life 6,560 years, alpha decay)
Pu-241, fissile (half-life 14.4 years, beta decay)
Pu-242, (half-life 374,000 years, alpha decay)
The most common isotope formed in a typical nuclear reactor is the fissile Pu-239 isotope, formed by neutron capture from U-238 (followed by beta decay), and which yields much the same energy as the fission of U-235. Well over half of the plutonium created in the reactor core is 'burned' in situ and is responsible for about one third of the total heat output of a light water reactor (LWR). Of the rest, about one sixth through neutron capture becomes Pu-240 (and Pu-241). The approximately 1.15% of plutonium in the spent fuel removed from a commercial LWR power reactor (burn-up of 42 GWd/t) consists of about 53% Pu-239, 25% Pu-240, 15% Pu-241, 5% Pu-242 and 2% of Pu-238, which is the main source of heat and radioactivity
.......
Toxicity and health effects
Despite being toxic both chemically and because of its ionising radiation, plutonium is far from being "the most toxic substance on Earth" or so hazardous that "a speck can kill". On both counts there are substances in daily use that, per unit of mass, have equal or greater chemical toxicity (arsenic, cyanide, caffeine) and radiotoxicity (smoke detectors).

There are three principal routes by which plutonium can get into human beings who might be exposed to it:

Ingestion.
Contamination of open wounds.
Inhalation.
Ingestion is not a significant hazard, because plutonium passing through the gastro-intestinal tract is poorly absorbed and is expelled from the body before it can do harm.

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Quoting Floodman:


You bet he did...at a time when the majority of the population still thought that disease was caused primarily by bad air, that the earth was 5000 some odd years old, that mice generated spontaneously from piles of dirty rags and that one could, with the aid of certain arcane symbols, chemical elements and tubing make gold from lead. Bear in mind also that at the time he was alive, most believed in witches, werewolves and vampires. That the man was able to get any serious work done is a testament to his genius and ability to separate fact from fiction.


Photobucket">
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132. Skyepony (Mod)
Japan that has not managed to recover after the first blow of natural disasters ( earthquakes and tsunamis) is risking to be overtaken by a new misery resulting from these disasters. Japanese Seismic Service has reported of a threat of its symbol, Fujiyama volcano’s eruption. The reasons for these assessments are recent 5-6 magnitude earthquakes on the volcano. The last time the volcano erupted was in 1707 when a new crater appeared on it and Tokyo streets ( named do at the time) were covered with 15 sm ash. Eruption of the national symbol will completely " smash" Japan which has just 2 days to stave off nuclear explosion at APS Fukushima affected by tsunami. So far Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has increased the danger degree at wrecking Automatic power station Fukushima -1 till the 5th level out of 7 possible ones. International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) already considers wreckage at Japanese APS Fukushima-Daiichi the most serious one since Chernobyl catastrophe of 1986. Japanese government has already asked the USA for technical assistance to push aside wreckage on APS built under General Electric technology. At present it has been officially affirmed that another 6.200 people have become victims of Japanese earthquake on 11 March. Nearly 10.200 people are considered missing.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 209 Comments: 39106
Quoting Grothar:


I know Rookie. He DEFINITELY is not a troll. Sorry, there was a misunderstanding there Rookie. And I found my keys, but now I can't find my glasses. Hope everyone is fine. The Doc had a nice blog today.




Lost your glasses there, buddy? What is that on top of your head?
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Quoting Grothar:


I know Rookie. He DEFINITELY is not a troll. Sorry, there was a misunderstanding there Rookie. And I found my keys, but now I can't find my glasses. Hope everyone is fine. The Doc had a nice blog today.

I stand corrected
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Quoting Floodman:


LOL...sorry...got a little carried away there


Hey, Flood, leave my friend Rookie alone or I'll make you drop and do 20. LOL
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Quoting jitterboy:

I personally would appreciate it if you keep your religion to yourself. I have always felt that those who feel the need to broadcast their beliefs have some sort of guilty conscience. I come here for science and science related discussions. I personally find the links that people post to be the most helpful. If you want to talk religion, I am sure there are plenty of blogs out there. If you feel the need to save someone, I would think that doing that in person would be more productive. Go knock on some doors.

What is the difference between a Jehovah's witness and a Yugo?

You can slam the door on a Jehovah.





Ok. I can see where that came from. I was questioning RecordSeason's strong post concerning his religious beliefs. Trust me. I will NEVER try to influence anyone in how they should conduct themselves in their religion or in what their religion should be. I asked RecordSeason a simple question. What he does with the question is not my concern. I was not even seeking a reply from him.
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:




Grothar knows me through emails. Ask him his opinion of that. Why would you think that I would be one or both of the others? I will change my posts, if you truly believe that. Or not post at all, if that is what you wish.


I know Rookie. He DEFINITELY is not a troll. Sorry, there was a misunderstanding there Rookie. And I found my keys, but now I can't find my glasses. Hope everyone is fine. The Doc had a nice blog today.
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Quoting Floodman:


Steady hands, a great deal of play time in Milton-Bradley's Operation and a willingness to play with mushy gray stuff, what the hey?


a God complex helps too....Hey, we've come full circle!
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thanks, Jerry...

:)

I missed most of George's stuff.... but I always enjoyed his shows when I was able to see them on HBO....
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124. Skyepony (Mod)
18S CHERONO
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 209 Comments: 39106
Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:



No, Floodman. LOL I should have been more specific. Grothar had lost his car keys and I was asking him if he had found them.


LOL...sorry...got a little carried away there
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Quoting RecordSeason:


You know, a significant portion of what is known to make a nuclear reactor is actually common knowledge, quite literally found in appropriate text books and encyclopedias.


As for theology, every Christian, and indeed every person, had better be a theologian, because I can assure you, not many others really care about your eternal destination or your relationship to God.

Just observe the absurdities on this thread, whereby this little spat started with the absurd notion that an atheist could "rest in peace". And we typically get responses of "who cares" and "this isn't the time/place".

The point is, you better be a "theologian". You better come to know God for yourself, otherwise, you're either deceiving yourself, or you're at the mercy of relying on someone else to tell you what to believe.


If there is any topic worth discussing, it is the topics of and related to God, morality, and eternity, and yet there is always some excuse for the listener or a potential participant in said discussion to not care and not want to be bothered.



And oh yes, floodman, not that I call myself any sort of title, but who says a Christian or even an ordained minister cannot be a scientist too? Ironically, Isaac Newton, the father of all modern science and mathematics, was an ultra-conservative, fundamentalist Christian who believed in Bible Prophecy and wrote extensively on interpretation of Biblical prophecy.


You bet he did...at a time when the majority of the population still thought that disease was caused primarily by bad air, that the earth was 5000 some odd years old, that mice generated spontaneously from piles of dirty rags and that one could, with the aid of certain arcane symbols, chemical elements and tubing make gold from lead. Bear in mind also that at the time he was alive, most believed in witches, werewolves and vampires. That the man was able to get any serious work done is a testament to his genius and ability to separate fact from fiction.
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Quoting FtMyersgal:


This morning the local met on NBC-2 said the Gulf temp was 66 off Fort Myers Beach.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 176 Comments: 55665
Quoting Floodman:


"Can you jump up and down for me, Mr. Smith?"
"Ka-ching, ka-ching!"
"Damn it! Okay Mr. Smith, back on the table...the keys to my Beemer are about three ribs down on the left and I have a tee time in an hour..."



No, Floodman. LOL I should have been more specific. Grothar had lost his car keys and I was asking him if he had found them.
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Nothing on the gieger counters.
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Quoting jitterboy:
I think Some1Has2BtheRookie,RecordSeason, and the Publix bag boy/shirtless jail bait kid from yesterday are the same person.


Nope...Rookie ok..IMHO....dont judge others....If we all thought alike, would be BORING world.
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Quoting jitterboy:
I think Some1Has2BtheRookie,RecordSeason, and the Publix bag boy/shirtless jail bait kid from yesterday are the same person.




Grothar knows me through emails. Ask him his opinion of that. Why would you think that I would be one or both of the others? I will change my posts, if you truly believe that. Or not post at all, if that is what you wish.
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:







The operation was a complete success but, the patient died? They don't allow me to play with sharp instruments any more.

Did you find your keys?




"Can you jump up and down for me, Mr. Smith?"
"Ka-ching, ka-ching!"
"Damn it! Okay Mr. Smith, back on the table...the keys to my Beemer are about three ribs down on the left and I have a tee time in an hour..."
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I think Some1Has2BtheRookie,RecordSeason, and the Publix bag boy/shirtless jail bait kid from yesterday are the same person.
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Eerily quiet in the news on the Libyan front.
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:
I was wondering what the current SST's are in the GOM. Beach water temp at Galveston are 64F. Will someone post the current SST of the GOM for me please? I would greatly appreciate it.

TIA!Link
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Quoting NRAamy:
why would you want turd smoke? I can think of plenty of other things to smoke that are less doodie-smelling/tasting....


LOL

Actually, "smoking a turd in purgatory" is George Carlin quote (poor George, apparently he's turning on a spit somewhere on the 3rd level of hell).

"You'll smoke a turd in purgatory for that one, Johnny!"

Having been indoctrinated Catholic, I always found that one funny, and as for better things to smoke, have you heard about purgatory? We'll be lucky to find that to smoke...LOL
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Quoting Grothar:


I heard brain surgery isn't that hard either. As long as one has a "heads up" on it. I may try some next week.







The operation was a complete success but, the patient died? They don't allow me to play with sharp instruments any more.

Did you find your keys?


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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:
I was wondering what the current SST's are in the GOM. Beach water temp at Galveston are 64F. Will someone post the current SST of the GOM for me please? I would greatly appreciate it.

TIA!


This morning the local met on NBC-2 said the Gulf temp was 66 off Fort Myers Beach.
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Quoting Grothar:


I heard brain surgery isn't that hard either. As long as one has a "heads up" on it. I may try some next week.


Steady hands, a great deal of play time in Milton-Bradley's Operation and a willingness to play with mushy gray stuff, what the hey?
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Quoting kwgirl:
I want some of that smoke!


LOL
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Quoting Jedkins01:


If its simple, why don't you go for a degree in it then?

I once had someone tell me "oh meteorology, its not that bad, thunderstorms are pretty easy to understand".

Then I asked him: well why don't you try and go for a degree since you think its so easy?

He said "well I uh, I'm not very good at math, and physics is really hard."

:)


I heard brain surgery isn't that hard either. As long as one has a "heads up" on it. I may try some next week.
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Quoting Floodman:




So you're a nuclear physicist/theologian? Or do you just "pourtray" one here?

Being an evangelical agnostic/buddhist cannibal, I guess I'll be smoking a turd in purgatory too, huh?
I want some of that smoke!
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Quoting RecordSeason:


Oh no friend, it's a very important existential, philosophical matter of greater importance than anything else really.

"What is a man profited if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?"

One cannot rest in peace if one is an atheist.

Again, if he was right, then his afterlife is non-existent, or else he's burning in hell because he mocked God continually, and many of you laughed with him.


Quoting RecordSeason:


I would rather be "rude" and at least tell the truth, rather than to be "PC" and yet be a liar.


I will not participate nor consent to the false ideology and obvious spiritual, moral, and philosophical falsehoods promoted by atheists.

It's a key and relevant point to the post I was responding to, because the very notion of an atheist "resting in peace" is a philosophical contradiction and even an outright lie.


So you're a nuclear physicist/theologian? Or do you just "pourtray" one here?

Being an evangelical agnostic/buddhist cannibal, I guess I'll be smoking a turd in purgatory too, huh?
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Talk about 'hell,' this weekend would be a good time to work on the taxes.
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RecordSeason - Pardon my intrusion but, is it not our calling to teach those that do not yet know the Word of God as opposed to chastising those that do not believe as you believe?

Just a simple question.
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IAEA Update March 18th
Japan Earthquake Update (18 March 2011, 12:25 UTC)
Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA that, prior to the earthquake of 11 March, the entire fuel core of reactor Unit 4 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant had been unloaded from the reactor and placed in the spent fuel pond located in the reactor's building.

Clarification

Contrary to several news reports, the IAEA to date has NOT received any notification from the Japanese authorities of people sickened by radiation contamination.

In the report of 17 March 01:15 UTC, the cases described were of people who were reported to have had radioactive contamination detected on them when they were monitored.

Japan Earthquake Update (18 March 2011, 10:15 UTC)
Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA that new INES ratings have been issued for some of the events relating to the nuclear emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants.

Japanese authorities have assessed that the core damage at the Fukushima Daiichi 2 and 3 reactor Units caused by loss of all cooling function has been rated as 5 on the INES scale.

Japanese authorities have assessed that the loss of cooling and water supplying functions in the spent fuel pool of the Unit 4 reactor has been rated as 3.

Japanese authorities have assessed that the loss of cooling functions in the reactor Units 1, 2 and 4 of the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant has also been rated as 3. All reactor Units at Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant are now in a cold shut down condition.


LinktoIAEASITE
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A link to keep up with Japan time...

Link
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
I was wondering what the current SST's are in the GOM. Beach water temp at Galveston are 64F. Will someone post the current SST of the GOM for me please? I would greatly appreciate it.

TIA!
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Quoting MrMixon:


Yeah, construction machinery or any decent-sized engine with the right harmonic output could rattle windows. People sure are jumpy.

EYEStoSEA, I'm still looking into the St. Lawrence Rift issue, but it's been a busy couple of days and my initial research turned up a lot more questions than answers. Will let you know when I've finally got something to report - likely will post it on my own blog so as not to clutter up Dr. Masters' discussion space (imagine).



Ty...there is no rush...just an interest of mine and will check your blog from time to time. So much going on everywhere.....hopeful things calm down soon :)
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
Quoting RecordSeason:


I would rather be "rude" and at least tell the truth, rather than to be "PC" and yet be a liar.


I will not participate nor consent to the false ideology and obvious spiritual, moral, and philosophical falsehoods promoted by atheists.

It's a key and relevant point to the post I was responding to, because the very notion of an atheist "resting in peace" is a philosophical contradiction and even an outright lie.


I'm just glad you've found your calling, reverend.
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:
Not even a small tremor verified in Fl...at this time.

Link


Yeah, construction machinery or any decent-sized engine with the right harmonic output could rattle windows. People sure are jumpy (understandably).

EYEStoSEA, I'm still looking into the St. Lawrence Rift issue, but it's been a busy couple of days and my initial research turned up a lot more questions than answers. Will let you know when I've finally got something to report - likely will post it on my own blog so as not to clutter up Dr. Masters' discussion space (imagine).

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Not even a small tremor verified in Fl...at this time.

Link
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496

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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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