Simulation shows radiation cloud bearing down on Washington

Simulation shows radiation cloud bearing down on Washington

Credit: YouTube

A still image from an animated forecast by the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, showing the projected path of a radiation cloud from Japan.

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by CHRIS SULLIVAN / 97.3 KIRO FM

NWCN.com

Posted on April 5, 2011 at 11:51 AM

There's a new animation making waves on the web. It shows a massive radiation cloud from Japan hitting the West Coast on Wednesday.

Is it accurate? What's the real risk?

The animation was put together by scientists at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research. It's a credible group that studies atmospheric patterns. Mynorthwest.com had University of Washington atmospheric science professor Dr. Dan Jaffe take a look at it. He's considered one of the best at understanding trans-Pacific air patterns.

"You have to understand this is projected based on forecast weather data," Dr. Jaffe said. "It's not reality, but it's what someone has put into a computer simulation to give us a sense of what could be happening in the next few days."

Dr. Jaffe has plenty of questions about the simulation. So many, in fact, that he's reached out to the Institute for more information on its assumptions and reasoning that make-up the basis for the projections.

"The critical unknown is how much radiation is being released," he said. "So I'm going to guess that they're looking at worst case scenarios here and making an assumption about the largest possible amount of radiation that's being released from the facility and then trying to understand where that goes."

But even if the simulation is accurate, Dr. Jaffe believes the radiation will be in the upper atmosphere and have a limited impact below.

To read more, visit mynorthwest.com

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