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Originally posted by Phage
reply to post by onyx718
The jet stream is a high altitude, high speed wind which crosses the Pacific. Lower level winds (the ones that would carry the radioactive material) are more chaotic and much slower. This give the material more time to disperse and become more diluted (like stirring a drink). While it can be carried across the ocean by lower level winds, by the time it reaches populated areas its concentration will be greatly reduced, to harmless levels.
Here is an image of what those lower level winds typically look like across the Pacific. I know it's a little confusing to look at, the "arrows" are pointing in the direction of the wind flow. Notice that right now there is a low pressure area to the east of Japan creating a circular wind pattern. The material being emitted now will be trapped by that and slowly carried to the northeast, dispersing as it does so.
edit on 3/16/2011 by Phage because: (no reason given)