Be prepared for a ton of radiation news, if not an actual "plume" of harmful radiation, in the coming days and weeks. For now, President Obama, Berkeley scientists, and everyone who knows anything would like you to please go on about your lives, and don't believe all the hype and those mis-leading animations about the radiation plume coming from Japan and engulfing the West Coast.
The Chron posted a graphic showing that, at least for today, most of the radiation particles are headed to Alaska and Canada, and even those are at safe levels. Furthermore, the particles are "significantly diluted" as they mix with the upper atmosphere, and whatever hits California is going to be at a very high altitude.
The director of public health in L.A., Dr. Jonathan Fielding, says "The biggest health impact (from this radiation) is the psychological impact."
Berkeley scientists say they have detected a few particles in the air, but it is all at much lower levels even than one would experience on a regular airplane flight. Also, as ABC 7 reports, the animation showing that plume coming across the ocean is very misleading what's arriving isn't really a plume at all, but some dispersed particles, and no one can actually predict how winds will carry and disperse the particles... but it won't look like that.
Anyway, we remain sort of freaked out. Meanwhile, the severity level of the nuclear crisis in Japan has been raised to a level 5 on a 7-point scale -- equivalent to Three Mile Island but not as bad as the level-7 Chernobyl meltdown.