Fukushima Radiation Plume: A Report from the Field

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A colleague of mine flew from Los Angeles to Taipei, Taiwan yesterday to attend a scientific meeting.  Normally the flight path used by United airlines takes the aircraft down the eastern coast of Honshu, Japan, on its way to Taipei, or if it stops in Tokyo, to Narita.  On this trip the pilot gave an especially wide berth as the aircraft came abreast of Fukushima, passing within about 200 miles of the island. 

As the aircraft passed through the plume, the levels of radiation spiked upward.  My colleague, knowing this would happen, had thought to bring a portable Geiger Counter with her.  The readings are shown below for the few minutes when the aircraft approached, and then passed through the plume. 

As she said in her email to me:  "I figured I'd take the counter with me and log data at 1 minute intervals when we neared Japan.  Althought the pilots said they were giving Fukushima a wide berth, there was still noticeable radiation as we flew abreast of Fukushima.  Thought you might like to see it.  The key observation is the 34 microsieverts per hour logged over a 1 minute interval (second to last column in the figure).  Since that is an average over 1 minute, I would have loved to see what the spike really was."

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