Date: 1/19/2010 11:30 AM
[Editor's Note: Copy and pasted from the site since the URL presents a continuous page with no breaks.]
Update: 1/19/12, 11:30 A.M. - Radiation Alert from Taos
On January 18th, at about 5:48 PM local time, the Nokaoi station in the Taos area of New Mexico broadcast a Radiation Alert over the Network. See the graph at right, depicting elevated readings averaging over 100 CPM (Counts per Minute) for a sustained period of about 20 minutes, then subsiding to near normal background levels of about 60 to 70 CPM.
For context, the station is operating the Inspector Geiger counter, which is a high count rate model built around an ultra-sensitive pancake style Geiger- Mueller tube. Between that high count rate, and the high elevation of Taos at 7,300 feet, their background count of about 60 CPM is therefore considered normal.
During the alert period, the station reports they were monitoring indoors on the second floor of an adobe structure, with the instrument sitting on the bed, monitoring the environment only - no specific materials were being scanned at the time. A few minutes of outdoor monitoring preceded the graphed activity shown above, which readings were also elevated. It was neither raining nor snowing at the time, and the wind was still, against relatively clear skies, although the station reported a "heavy orange cloud" on the western horizon at dusk, reminiscent of an LA sunset that is color enhanced by smog.
So what was the cause? In short, we don't know, but the fact that the elevated radiation levels were sustained for many minutes, versus a momentary spike, and then fell back to normal levels, tends to rule out a false alert that our network occasionally generates from an instrument glitch or the like. A jet stream map from last evening located the flow too far north to be a factor, its southern edge dipping down only as far as Colorado. Did the orange cloud somehow relate to the elevated radiation levels? Was there a passing radioactive "plume" from Japan? Or perhaps a downwind release from Los Alamos National Lab to the west? These are speculative questions only. A greater number of Monitoring Stations would provide a chance to corroborate readings, so that must be the continuing mission of the Radiation Network.
[...]Visit here for the radiation network map