Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Winds shift over Fukushima, now headed across Pacific. Hey, we’re in the Pacific!

by Larry Geller

This is followup to yesterday’s article, New Zealand weatherman discusses propagation of radioactivity across the Pacific in video (3/14/2011).

It’s important that we in Hawaii get accurate information about the potential effects of radioactive fallout carried by the winds from Japan, and also that we be on guard that economic interests (our tourist industry) do not work to suppress information we need to have.

Articles posted on the web still say there is no danger to America, but they mean America, you know, the Mainland. There is some good general discussion beginning, though not yet in our daily paper, which is just trying to catch up with the nuclear events this morning.

The tweets and Internet articles are following the weather, though:

Here it comes


While we remain complacent, whether justifiable or not, they are paying attention over there on the continent:

Iodine rush


How is Hawaii doing in the iodine department? Do we have any? Are there contingency plans? Should there be?

Of course, the greatest danger from radioactive fallout and radioactive sea water will be felt in Japan itself, and that's the focus of this next snip, but anywhere the fallout comes down there should be similar concerns:

Radioactive material is carried by minute moisture droplets in the air. It can then be directly inhaled into the lungs, get washed down by rain into the sea and onto soil, and eventually contaminate crops, marine life and drinking water.

Cow's milk was also especially vulnerable, experts said, if cows graze on grass exposed to radiation.

Radiation is dangerous because it can cause changes or mutations in DNA, which may then go on to cause cancer. While the human body can repair DNA changes or damage, a person is only safe if the repair process happens faster than the time it takes for the damaged or mutated DNA material to replicate.

Experts agree that growing children and fetuses are most at risk because their cells divide at a faster rate than adults.

[Reuters, Japan radioactivity could enter food chain, 3/15/2010]


Al Jazeera is following the winds:

11:10pm Here's the very latest from Steff Gaulter, Al Jazeera's senior meteorlogist:

The Japan Meteorological Agency did this earlier, and now the USGS have now upgraded the earthquake to a 9.0. This makes it the joint fourth largest earthquake ever recorded.

Now back to the winds:

They're currently still from the east or south-east, but they are going to slowly start to swing round to the north-west over the next few hours.

The winds are then going to pick up as the snow falls, with gusts around 40kph.

It's going to feel much colder than the thermometer reads, which tonight will only be 1C.

Bad news for survivors, but potentially good news for the surrounding area.

It's important to remember that these are winds at the surface, and winds at different heights go at different speeds and different directions. At an altitude of around 10km, the height that aeroplanes fly, the prevailing wind is towards the west coast of the USA.

This means that what happens to the radiation depends on what was released - and how high in the atmosphere it travels.

Currently it's raining in the area, which means that any radiation can't get particularly high in the atmosphere, so any problems should be confined to the immediate area to the west/northwest of the site - as the winds are coming from the east - south-east.

As soon as the winds swing round, any radiation will be pushed clear of the coast, but where will it go?
It will head across the Pacific, but it will only be a problem here if it is still radioactive by the time it arrives above the Americas - and this depends on the material which is being released.

Some materials decay very fast, meaning that they certainly won't be hazardous by the time they reach the other side of the Pacific, thousands of miles away. The most hazardous radioactive materials, which take a long time to decay, ought to remain in the core, and as long as this is intact, the coast of North America should also be problem-free.

You can follow Steff on Twitter: @WeatherSteff

This work is licensed under Creative Commons. Please read our attribution policy.

Of course, I’m concerned primarily about possible health effects should radiation come our way. There would be economic fallout as well, and we must be on guard to be sure that our state government does not try to protect tourism by suppressing information we need to have. Note the panic iodine buying on the continent. Should winds blow bad stuff to Hawaii, tourists would wisely avoid the place.

Could that happen? You betcha. Our economy is fragilely based on tourism, and so our economic interest would work against informing our citizens of any real fallout danger.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.


Well thanks again Larry for picking up the slack from the gaping holes of non-information coming from tax dollar supported public ʻservicesʻ.

Now I understand why the Republicans want to cut the budget of the National Weather Service. Huh?

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