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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were gonna need a 12mm wrench and a piece of PVC and a Pump Gear washer lock pin,,..

,,not a Clarkman though


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting islander101010:
this whole gig shows one of the biggest weaknesses of the nuck energy. that is where do you put the "leftovers"


The Frence recycle it. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/reac tion/readings/french.html or Google nuclear waste France

The US talks about it.
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Quoting Grothar:


I had to go back to Classic view. The only place it will work. The next person who says how good this new version is, I'll.......well, being a gentleman, I can't say it on the blog. Think this strange new moon has anything to do with it?
what strange moon
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Quoting twincomanche:
Test test. Earth calling Grothar.


I had to go back to Classic view. The only place it will work. The next person who says how good this new version is, I'll.......well, being a gentleman, I can't say it on the blog. Think this strange new moon has anything to do with it?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Things are screwed up using IE, but okay on Firefox.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10986
it works for me too but its a little annoying cause i got to type the picture or other html code to post
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Quoting IFuSAYso:


I use to live in Crestview, I love playing in Destin.


first time to try using the "Quote" button, but it seems to be working for me, Grothar? On Camino & a Mac, tho.

IFuSAYso, Yes, Crestview and Destin are both lovely. This is the perfect weather for me. mid 70's during the day and cool at night. Everything is starting to bloom!

Aqua! Good to see you too!! I've been lurking and was so proud to be able to add some hippo content!
Member Since: August 4, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 1190
K maybe it is messed up haha.

It's working fine for me tho
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
Quoting Grothar:
Is the blog messing up? I can't seem to quote or post images.


Have you tried multiple times on the same entry? Many times when I try to quote it does not work the first time but when I go back up and select quote again it normally works.
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466. Grothar 11:58 PM GMT on March 18, 2011
Is the blog messing up? I can't seem to quote or post images.
Action: Quote | Ignore User
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 7337


ya its mess up been for awhile

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Quoting Grothar:
Is the blog messing up? I can't seem to quote or post images.

Nah its just you mann
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
Is the blog messing up? I can't seem to quote or post images.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
Quoting aquak9:
MaryEsther!!!

♥♥ so good to see you!!!


I use to live in Crestview, I love playing in Destin.
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Quoting cat5hurricane:
New steam or smoke. Could be vapor though from hosing them down.

Link




Aye, aye, aye... I do NOT like the look of that "haze" hanging around the facility. And there are definitely one or two columns of steam/smoke/death rising from the haze.

Godspeed to those who are working to bring this situation under control.
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QUOTING twincomanche:


Zat mean Geoff won't be calling the numbers?


He couldn't find his glasses either.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
Quoting twincomanche:

nuke


nyuk-nyuk-nyuk

(can't believe twinC made me laugh!!)
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25740
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
MaryEsther!!!

♥♥ so good to see you!!!
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25740
quoting twincomanche:

No bingo tonight Grothar?





No,they wouldn't let me play. They thought the excitement would be too much if I won.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
My quote button won't work.

QUOTING WATCHINGTHISONE:

As the Marx brothers said, there is no Sanity Clause.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
Sorry ...

but it seemed important to clear up the hippo confusion before it spiraled out of control.
Don't wanta mess with an angry hippo.

:o)
Member Since: August 4, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 1190
450. NRAamy
11:12 PM GMT on March 18, 2011
Geriatric vikings need to take their naps now.... your blankie is calling...
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
448. WatchingThisOne
11:10 PM GMT on March 18, 2011
Quoting Grothar:


Boy, the nonsense on this blog. I come on here for the weather and all I see is a small clique exchanging inane remarks. There are important issues to discuss here. :P


It was a sanity break :)
Member Since: July 15, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1262
447. Grothar
11:09 PM GMT on March 18, 2011
At least GeoffWPB posted a nice weather map. You never see him posting non-relevant videos. I think he should be applauded for staying on topic.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
444. NRAamy
11:04 PM GMT on March 18, 2011
Gro... go take your Geritol, grumpus.....

;)
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442. PalmBeachWeather
11:04 PM GMT on March 18, 2011
Grother.Sorry, bowing for forgivness
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 5822
441. Grothar
11:03 PM GMT on March 18, 2011
Quoting NRAamy:
thank you, MaryEsther

:)


Boy, the nonsense on this blog. I come on here for the weather and all I see is a small clique exchanging inane remarks. There are important issues to discuss here. :P
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
439. NRAamy
11:00 PM GMT on March 18, 2011
Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom! I loved that show!!
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
438. islander101010
10:59 PM GMT on March 18, 2011
this whole gig shows one of the biggest weaknesses of the nuck energy. that is where do you put the "leftovers"
Member Since: September 11, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 4344
437. PalmBeachWeather
10:57 PM GMT on March 18, 2011
NRAamy..........I am not 100% convinced.......I sure wish Marlin Perkins was still around
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 5822
435. GeoffreyWPB
10:54 PM GMT on March 18, 2011
Beautiful weather in West Palm, but no rain.

Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10986

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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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