Radioactive Weather

Oct 13, 2016
Satellite images of winds and precipitation from Japan


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On April 11, the Japanese government raised the Fukushima nuclear accident level from five to seven, the same severity assigned to the Chernobyl disaster. One of the questions I have gotten since the initial reports of the accident has been “How much damaging radiation has reached the United States?”

“Satellite images of winds and precipitation from Japan. Dark colors are precipitation. The winds are carrying the radiation towards Alaska and raining it out over open waters.” Source: NASA

My answer has consistently been that there are few things sillier than bronzing on a tanning bed, chatting all day on your cell phone and microwaving dinner – and then rushing off to get iodine pills because of a nuclear accident thousands of miles away in Japan. The distance and weather is protecting the United States.

It turns out that more radiation than was previously thought might have escaped in the initial hours after the quake, making the accident as severe as the 1986 disaster in the Ukraine. Unlike that distant event, where the accident occurred in the middle of a continental land mass, Fukushima was on the eastern edge of an island. The radiation from Chernobyl was carried through Russia, the Ukraine, Eastern Europe and Germany, with most of the damaging radiation falling on Belarus and the Ukraine.

Most of the radiation has rained out over the Pacific Ocean
Source: NOAA

By contrast most of Fukushima’s radiation has been carried out to sea by the strong prevailing westerly winds. The same volatility that has caused extreme springtime weather has whipped the winds far to the north before they swung south again and entered the West Coast a week after the accident. By that time, the fallout had fallen out. Precipitation rained most of the radiation out into the Pacific. The ocean circulation has absorbed and diluted the radiation, letting it sink below the surface. It’s tough if you are a fish but really cool for Californians.

Our government is good at noticing radiation. Minute amounts have been detected as far away from the accident as the East Coast and even Europe. None of these amounts have been even remotely dangerous.

So relax—that healthy glow on your skin won’t glow in the dark.

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to "Weather Whispers" by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these blog posts. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.

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Reaction between Boric Acid , Heat and Ozone

Reaction between Boric Acid , Heat and Ozone
This was done to cool the Reactor intially..Not a good Idea...Proven that Boric acid released as steam will further weaken the Ozone layer...Try water only

The media lies...

The reason why the media tells us lies, or fabricates the truth, is because could you imagine if they told the whole truth?? That would send most of us into a serious panic. While i don't know just how much of what My House is saying is true on the radiation in the foods, we do know that alot of the other stuff is true. The media constantly doesn't tell the truth about stuff, or tells another side of things. Not the whole truth. People need to WAKE UP!!! I used to be blind to once..

I wish....

I wish I had the time on my hands to do such extensive research as many people have done regarding this issue. I choose to believe what the author wrote, since she is the expert and I am not. People are very worried about this and have spent countless hours at their computer doing research - is that healthy? Many people may be so worried they've lost sleep. Is that healthy? In my opinion, worrying about the "what ifs" can be just as detrimental to someone's health. There's risk everywhere, and often the most danger is closer than we think. I am not worried about the radiation from Japan - I have enough to worry about right here under my own roof.

Misinformation and Tin Foil Hats

Whilst I am not as cavalier as MS Browning Garriss, I am not running for the Potassium Iodide pills with my tin foil hat on either.

I have been a nuclear chemist and now I am an atmospheric chemist. The idodine 131 is not much of a problem for us here in the US. The half life is less than 8 days (less than the average time it would take for the particles to get here. Cesium 137 is problematic because it replaces potassium in your blood and can settle in your bones making them softer.

The concentration here is very low. It is above the background radiation but still is no worse than standing next to your local coal-fired power plant, which emits these radioactive particles and more EVERY DAY.

I would be worried if I lived within 100km from these reactors, but since several thousand miles separate us, I have the luxury of just observing and modeling where the particles go. That and I do not like sushi.

RE: eating Pacific Ocean Fish

In the later paragraph it says:
"Precipitation rained most of the radiation out into the Pacific. The ocean circulation has absorbed and diluted the radiation, letting it sink below the surface. It’s tough if you are a fish but really cool for Californians."


I think you missed the point of my post.

Hiroshima was a terrible atrocity, no doubt, but, it doesn't have anything to do with my above post. Also, I lived in Japan for many years and still have many dear friends there that I worry about daily. My heart goes out the country for the destruction, lives lost, and the coming health crisis due to radiation exposure. It was a horrible act of nature.

Though, that does not erase the fact that the reactors are still leaking radioactive material into the atmosphere and that it has been found in the United States and Europe. I am placing blame on our government and media for not informing us as to what the realities and amounts of the radiation exposure are. I am by no means a nuclear physicist but I am however educated and have a lay knowledge of shelf life and effects of different types of radiation exposure.

As to your statements; We do know what the wind and weather patterns have been. We do know that radiation has been found in milk at 300% over what the USDA has deemed safe levels. We do know that the US radiation metering systems in several locations are not functioning properly and that Canada has turned their monitoring system off. We do know what types of radiation were released. I’ve done my homework.

I am absolutely posting due to concern for others who will not and have not gotten accurate information from the above article and main stream media, which was stated in the first two sentences of my previous post.

Concerned? ABSOLUTELY! How can I not be? We’re in this together? Of course we are! I will not just shrug my shoulders and hope that my daughters don’t come down with breast cancer in 10 or 20 years (iodine 131). I will be proactive in my life and my community to help those uninformed make educated decisions not ones based on misinformation.

I suggest you do some homework to find out what is really going on then come back with your arguments and we can have an educated debate.

P.S. I’m sure you’ve heard of food preservation ie canning, drying...


"It has been 65 years since Hiroshima, do you hear anything about rebuilding in the area, no because the atomic radiation is still deteriorating.." You should check out their online travel guide...


Not quite the bleak travel destination one would

Be proactive not reactive

You know compared what we did in 45' times two, why are you worried. To "My House", you would need to know what type of radiation was released. The atmosphere, weather, wind, etc., all play into this. Stocking up on a year's worth of meat will not help. One power outage for whatever reason and you are screwed. As for waiting it out, do you know anything about the "half live" of radioactive materials? It been 65 years since Hiroshima, do you hear anything about rebuilding in that area, no because the atomic raditation is still deterioating. Good luck waiting it out inaddition to the power outage. Like I said with all the testing over the years why are you worried. Show some concern for a change, we are all in this "radiation" problem.

Hiroshima has already been rebuilt

The rebuilding started almost right away. People have lived in Hiroshima since The Bomb was dropped. That is why you don't hear about rebuilding Hiroshima.

And yes there is a difference between beta and gamma radiation. But there is no cause to blow this out of proportion.

Unfortunate Article

I find it unfortunate that you are following in the main stream media's path by glossing over the real effects of this crisis. 300% increase in safe levels of radiation in milk, the French government has issued a warning to pregnant and breast feeding women to not eat soft cheese, milk, or drink surface water from rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.
Milk is the first area where radiation is found because it is immediately available for consumption, soft cheeses take a short period of time to cure and are readily available, hard cheeses however take up to a year to sure and thus would not have radiation in them. Most meats take 10 days to three weeks to hit the meat case in stores; therefore we are out of the safe period on fresh meat.
Radiation levels are up, it’s a fact, stating that you get radiation from rocks, plants, the sun, even cell phones is very duplicitous. The radiation from organic matter is one that humans have evolved to adapt to and is a different type of radiation than has been released in Japan. Radiation released from all electronic devices including cell phones and alarm clocks is neither for the same siervent level nor the same type of radiation.
Japan is releasing iodine 131; saturates the thyroid causing cancer, ceasium 134; responsible for cancer, neither of which are naturally occurring in nature, only by human manipulation. Also, the siervent levels being noted in the media as being released are per hour not a total amount, so if you read that 1500 siervents are released it’s 1500 per hour, multiply that by 24 hours per day and the amount of days radiation has been leaking and it is a staggering amount!
Stating that they are the same is uneducated and meant to misinform the population into a false sense of security and to manage public outcry and a demand for action. The more truthful answer would be yes, radiation has tainted the food and surface water supply. No there isn't anything that the government can do about it. So sorry, stock up on last year's produce and meat and wait it out.


Wow! You need to put foil on your windows and stay indoors.I agree with the author, we are a significant distance from the area to be "overly" alarmed. And yes, I am quit educated.

Not Too Into the Foil

I guess it sounds paranoid but if you actually took the time to do some real research, not just what is fed to us daily via the Today Show, you'll find that it has and currently is circulating over North America, Europe, and back to Asia.

Overly alarmed, no, I'm trying to be realistic. I am a bit frustrated with the lack of real information being put out by main stream media though which was the whole point of my post.

I guess, take it or leave it. The choice is yours. I go on with my day and planting my garden with a clear conscience.

Radiation from Fukushima

Let's look into the hidden truth in Ms. Garris' report. My House, you are not a nut. This is NOT natural radiation: it has been created by nuclear fission and fusion. If it is not cool for the fish, how can it be cool for humans who look to fish, not only for food, but to maintain the ecological balance of the greatest ecosytem on earth: our oceans! And if the radiation has merely gone "out to sea" it certainly has not gone AWAY! It is now contained IN our most important ecosystem!
Moreover, what will happen after Autumnal Equinox, when the weather patterns shift and wind currents dip down into our United States.
I agree that this is a gravely serious state of affairs, and it is being glossed over or hidden from the public by the experts who know the unfortunate truth.
There truly is nothing we can do, and all we CAN do is to try to live our lives "normally" with the knowledge that this is hanging over our heads; and be ready for everyone and everything to be affected. Be ready for cancer.


I've heard so many reports about the radiation and appreciate getting some clarity on this, especially the weather perspective.


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