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.
So what's the latest radiation monitoring telling scientists in Washington?
Donn Moyer, with the Department of Health, says the radiation levels are falling.
"We can tell by the radiation monitoring that we've been doing in the air that the radioactive iodine that we saw coming from Japan has stopped arriving," Moyer said. "We haven't had it in our air monitor readings since last week."
Conspiracy theorists believe the public isn't being told the truth about the actual radiation risk and computer models like this prove that. They see those down-playing the risk as part of some giant government cover up.
The Health Department's Moyer counters saying, "We want people to know," he said. "We live here too. I've got aging parents who live ten miles from my house. I've got grandkids who live five miles from my house. I'm not telling them anything different than anyone else. We want people to have information. We want them to make informed decisions, and we're giving them everything we have."
Dr. Jaffe doesn't buy the conspiracy theories either because he's doing some of the air monitoring himself. "Let's just say I'm not losing any sleep over it," he said. "I feel that the risk here in the Pacific Northwest really is not something that I'm going to be worrying about."
The Department of Health and scientists at the University of Washington continue to test the air, rain water and milk from local cows for the latest radiation levels and risk, and they continue to say there is little to no risk to the public from any potential radiation moving across the Pacific to the West Coast.