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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution leads expedition to measure radioactive contaminants in Pacific
Date:6/2/2011

the Kuroshio Current, a strong, western boundary current akin to the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic, that could rapidly carry the radioactivity into the interior of the ocean. Deploying water sampling rosettes, the team will collect and analyze the samples for many radionuclides among them isotopes of cesium, iodine, ruthenium promethium, strontium, plutonium, radium, and uranium to learn how much contamination was released into the ocean, its potential impact on marine life and human health, and provide input to models for better understanding of contamination pathways and dispersion.

Steve Jayne, a physical oceanographer from WHOI and an expert in the Kuroshio Current and ocean circulation in the vicinity of the Japan archipelago, will lead the effort to understand the fate and pathways of radiation in the ocean. His team will deploy drifters to directly track water parcels in the region of the Fukushima power plants, collect profiles of temperature, salinity and oxygen through the water column, and will use shipboard Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) to measure ocean velocity. These efforts will allow Jayne and his colleagues to characterize transport and water masses required for modeling dispersion and removal of radionuclide contaminants.

"It is important that we have in situ data on the trajectories of the water parcels. There has been a lot of numerical modeling of the where the contaminated water is going, but very little real data to validate the models. Satellite data is useful, but the surface drifters and other ocean data will provide ground truth to check the model predictions," Jayne said.

In addition to bringing warm tropical waters north, the Kuroshio Current transports organisms long distances and is an important migration route for a variety of commercially important marine organisms in various stages of their life cycles. Biological samples and measurements, among the first to be collected offshore, will be
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Contact: Stephanie Murphy
samurphy@whoi.edu
508-289-2271
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Source:Eurekalert

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