Live real-time monitoring map of radiation counts in the USA

As many know, I’m a big fan of citizen science. There’s much that can be contributed by the layman that the government often cannot or will not do.

Since many people seem to be worried about nuclear fallout from Japan’s nuclear reactors, particularly on the west coast, I’m happy to introduce this live map, updated every five minutes, from the volunteer operated National Radiation Network.

Since this is likely to be popular, and to  minimize the page loads on the website, I’ve put the image beyond the “read more” divider. Please only click if you are interested in seeing the live USA radiation counts map:

The map is updated every 5 minutes.

Key to the map:

Nuclear Power Site Location

Alert Level = 100 CPM (counts per minute)

As you can see from the four west coast stations, there does not appear to be any elevated activity in radiation counts. The CPM is a unit of measurement for a Geiger counter, corresponding directly to the audible beeps or clicks per minute. CPM is the standard unit of measurement for alpha and beta radiation, and is also commonly used to express background radiation in numerical terms.

Normal background radiation is typically in the range of 25-75 counts per minute, depending on location and surroundings. Much of the natural background radiation comes from cosmic rays in addition to natural decay of earth bound elements. Of course, if somebody drives a banana truck into your neighborhood, that may change.

You can become part of this network if you are interested by purchasing a datalogging geiger counter and the network software to enable you to plug into and submit live data to the network via your office or home internet connection. Images below show a digital Geiger counter and the software with the RS232 interface cable.

Unfortunately, the company, MineralLab announced on their website that they are completely sold out due to the demand in wake of the Japan reactor events.

Bookmark it for future use if you are interested and visit again when this all settles down.


In related news, a similar setup is operating online in Tokyo. The one week graph is certainly encouraging.

Denphone Tokyo Office Geiger Counter

Posted: 2011-03-16 2:28 pm by Simon Gibson.

Here are the outputs from the Geiger Counter in our office in Azabujuban, Tokyo:

4 hour reading

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24 hour reading

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One week reading

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h/t to Poptech for the original map link.

a unit of measurement for a Geiger counter, on many models corresponding directly to the audible beeps or clicks per minute.  CPM is the standard unit of measurement for alpha and beta radiation, and is also commonly used to express background radiation in numerical terms.
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John F. Hultquist
March 17, 2011 8:57 pm

So far today I’ve had 2 BEDs via a banana and a handful of nuts.
Here is a link to a recent update.
At the bottom of this page is a list of the injuries among power plant workers. It is interesting and needs to be more widely circulated.

March 17, 2011 9:17 pm

You mean we’re not extrapolating averages across large intervening regions devoid of any volunteer’s gieger counter?!

March 17, 2011 9:18 pm

Sorry: “Geiger” counter.

B. McCune
March 17, 2011 9:39 pm

Same website as John Hultquist noted except different story. This gives some interesting data on declining radiation figures over the past few days as well as some interesting data on temperatures.
Looks like a very hopeful trend.

Alan S. Blue
March 17, 2011 9:56 pm

I’m with NOAA Programmer.
Note that the people in the net are basically clustered near … nuclear sites. This is urban warming redux!
Regardless, thank you for providing this service. And… I’ll bet “an app for that” would fund your retirement if it could clear ASAP.

Baa Humbug
March 17, 2011 10:00 pm

Awww enough with the bananas please Anthony. The poor oft battered folk of North Queensland rely on banana plantations to get back on their feet.
A fall in banana sales is not what they nedd right now. (yes your influence is far and wide)
regards with cheek

March 17, 2011 10:09 pm

Thanks for posting this, Anthony. Very nice.
Here’s another data set, (see the link below) to US EPA’s RadNet data, for radiation counters across the USA. There are many other datasets in this also. One must register first, then obtain free access to the databank.
The RadNet data is taken hourly, and has beta and several types of gamma radiation counts from the stations. There are archives, data downloading in Excel(tm) and plotting capabilities. For a government website, not bad, actually.
I looked at the data for beta radiation for the past week on the US west coast, from Eureka (California) and Anaheim (California) – which is near Los Angeles and the home of Disneyland. Eureka has an average of about 15 counts per minute, and Anaheim is somewhat higher at about 30.
Also, here’s a link to the State of Alaska’s statement on radiation from nuclear incident in Japan. It gives the typical background beta radiation count as about 5 to 50 counts per minute, and states that no concern is warranted up until about 2000 counts per minute.

March 17, 2011 10:18 pm

Correct me if I am wrong, but we seem to be getting slightly elevated levels in places with direct fights from Tokyo.

March 17, 2011 10:18 pm

It would be interesting to see measurements added from Hawaii.

March 17, 2011 10:30 pm

Here’s the iPhone app you’ve all been waiting for. the iPhone iMeter….it’ll meter anything you need to meter on your iPhone!
It’s accurate, reliable, instant unit conversion, portable, affordable, NIST traceable (no, it’s a different NIST..), and best of all, it’s only $.99 at the ap store.
Just point your phone at whatever you’re needing to measure, and slide your finger up on the screen to give the desired reading.
THIS is the ultimate alarmist tool! I use it all the time to detect B.S., or show people how CO2 is rising as we speak. Now, measure GoreRads in situ, in real time, and scare everyone with claims of dangerous something-or-other whenever you want to.
(believe it or not, I’ve actually convinced a few people that it’s real…..groan….)

March 17, 2011 10:41 pm

Looks to be a lot of ‘bananas’ in Denver?

March 17, 2011 10:41 pm

In Alaskan news, the EPA has set up monitoring sites (as well
as on Guam and the Hawaiian Islands) but they don’t expect to
see much fallout since the jet steam is currently “Far south
of Alaska. Hmmm… doesn’t “far south of Alaska take you
to British Columbia, Washington and Oregon?
If you want some quick near real time visualizations of which way
the wind blows across the Pacific:
MTSAT looking with infrared:
MTSAT looking in visible wavelengths:
GOES Full Disk Infrared:
GOES Full Disk Visible wavelength:
I usually check on two animated world loops when I’m interested
how our regional weather fits into the greater picture::

March 17, 2011 10:52 pm

Denver was over 70 before the last refresh. I’ve got the kids loaded up with iodine and have packed the car…

March 17, 2011 10:53 pm

Just a note about the nuclear plant shown on the Oregon-Washington border northwest of Portland. It’s no longer there in any meaningful sense. According to Wikipedia, decommissioning and demolition began in 1993 and was completed in 2006.
All that’s left at the site are the spent fuel rods, and (contrary to Wikipedia) they’re no longer in the spent fuel pool. Portland TV station KGW reports: “The waste is now stored inside 34 stainless steel containers, each surrounded by 150 ton casks made of concrete.” I’m sure the radiation levels at the site are determined more by the radioactive minerals in the concrete than by the contents of the casks.
How about a grayed-out icon showing that it once was, but is no more?

March 17, 2011 10:57 pm

What about Hawaii?
REPLY: They have sensors there, but for some reason not on the network right now. They have a manual note that says:
“We know a Radiation Monitoring Station on the Island of Maui in Hawaii, and have asked them to “plug in” to the Network, but so far we have received a report of just a manual reading as of 3/13/11 or 3/14/11 indicating no elevated radiation levels.”
– Anthony

March 17, 2011 11:14 pm

Geiger counters of this sort are good when looking for gross radiation levels, but do not tell you how that may translate into exposure rate which is the measure of potential dose (not necessarily the dose you are actually getting). I prefer what is called a microR meter for measuring my background levels. The microR meter is much more sensitive and the reading is easier to interpret for significance.
Anyway, if you insist on buying a Geiger counter, here are some tips:
When using a Geiger counter like this, seeing spikes of two or three times normal background is not unusual, so don’t panic if it does this. Background radiation varies considerably from daylight to night time, so expect this. If you move the meter around, expect variation. I don’t know about this particular meter, but just the motion of moving the meter will swing the needle on some meters (geotropism) and give you a false reading. The detector should be facing up if you are measuring background airborne contamination such as we may get from Japan. However, areas with relatively high radon levels may cause deposition of radon daughter products on the detector causing elevated counts over time, so I put a piece of tissue over the detector (I lose alpha counts doing this). Be careful where you put the meter, you may be in a naturally “hot” area. Be careful what you bring around the meter, there are lots of things in our personal worlds that can cause elevated counts.
You can distinguish alpha, beta or gamma emissions by doing the following:
1) put a piece of tissue paper over the detector. If the counts drop dramatically you are measuring an alpha emitter. Side window detectors, such as seen on the old Civil Defense meters, won’t detect alpha particles. Even pancake detectors such as used by the Inspector above have a very low efficiency for alpha particle detection. So if you see a dramatic drop when you put tissue over the detector, you have a serious radiation problem.
2) Put a 3/8 inch piece of plastic or wood over the detector. If the counts drop dramatically you are measuring a beta emitter such I-131 (also a gamma emitter so it may be a little confusing). The pancake probe on the Inspector is typically about 30% efficient.
3) If the counts don’t drop much after doing the above, you are measuring a gamma emitter such as Cs-137. Most of your normal background counts are X-ray/gamma emissions from the sun and natural radioactive materials that are all around us.
If you spill something on the detector, don’t try to clean it yourself – guaranteed you will ruin the detector. Have the manufacturer replace it. If your Geiger counter has a cable for the detector, it is not unusual to see the cable go bad and it will peg your meter. Don’t stick your tongue to an attached cable – there is about 500-1000 volts running through it. The window on a pancake or end window detector is fragile – I had a stalk of stiff grass break one ( I won’t say how many I’ve broken).
How do you know your detector is calibrated properly? You won’t. However, if you can get hold of a source of radiation such as old, orange FiestaWare, you can see if there is any change in your detector over time. It is critical, if you do this trick, to make sure you maintain the same geometry each time, i.e. the exact same distance from meter to source and exact same location of source relative to detector. With a uranium source such as found in FiestaWare, you should see very, very little decrease in counts over a year or more.
The above are just a few things you need to understand when using a Geiger counter. If you do not get decent training on how to properly use a meter like this, I personally think you are wasting your money, but it is your money and I like most of the companies that make radiation detectors so be my guest. Proper training also includes a course on how radioactive atoms and radiation interact with matter and, by extension, the detector.

March 18, 2011 12:09 am

they are missing one of the counties first nuke sites just to the west of me in southeastern Idaho. Soon to be a fuel reprocessing site also.

March 18, 2011 12:36 am

Wow… hot time in the mountains!
Wonder what’s in Boulder Colorado besides NCDC, NCDIC, NCAR, NOAA that makes it so darn HOT?? I thought they only hiked temperatures. Guess not.

Rational Debate
March 18, 2011 12:55 am

Hi Anthony,
Thanks for the map and links!
Question, however – what is being included as ‘nuclear power sites?’ What’s shown just doesn’t match up. Here’s a map of US nuclear power reactors:
So then I thought, ok, maybe it’s including research reactors, but while I see South Texas Project & Commanche Peak, the Texas A&M research reactors aren’t there and neither is the UT reactor. I see what must be Pantex (DOE Weapons Facility) in the panhandle near Amarillo, but what’s the one to the west of DFW in the middle of nowhere? Then there’s Nevada, no commercial nukes in the state – so, ok, I thought, it must be including the Nevada Test Site, and maybe Yucca Mountain or something… even tho there’s no power reactor there, but then what’s the third site? Plus, as someone else already posted, Trojan (outside of Portland Or) is long gone – and there are only two stations in California, Diablo Canyon and San Onofre. What in the world is in Montana? There are others too but these are the ones that caught my eye right off…
Sooooo….. I’m confused! Clearly the map legend ‘nuclear power sites’ is not referring just to commercial nuclear power sites, but I can’t make out just what it is or isn’t including. Help please.
Also, and suspect I’m going to feel stupid when I get the answer on this one, but what type of monitoring site is the “sim” referring to?

Scarlet Pumpernickel
March 18, 2011 12:57 am
Rational Debate
March 18, 2011 1:01 am

re post by: wayne says: March 18, 2011 at 12:36 am

Wow… hot time in the mountains!
Wonder what’s in Boulder Colorado besides NCDC, NCDIC, NCAR, NOAA that makes it so darn HOT?? I thought they only hiked temperatures. Guess not.

It’s this little thing called altitude. :0) Makes a huge difference in normal background radiation levels.

Rational Debate
March 18, 2011 1:08 am

For the Tokyo Geiger counter readings – I hope they’re not taking those readings INSIDE their office building. If you read their site literally, that’s what they are doing – and that won’t be representative of the dose rate outside. For that matter, you’ll get a boatload of building effects on the plume pathway in a city – can easily wind up with some spots significantly higher dose rates and others significantly lower, all based on how the wind is blowing through the city & around and over the buildings, and how each building is causing turbulence, flow disruptions, pathway deviations, etc.

March 18, 2011 2:18 am

To Wayne re “Wonder what’s in Boulder Colorado besides NCDC, NCDIC, NCAR, NOAA that makes it so darn HOT??
Actually the measurement looks to come from the Denver area and thus I could use an old health physics joke and say that we are scintillating. Putting up with Boulderites is not scintillating, though frequently entertaining in a twisted way.
We have a higher average background in Colorado because of our altitude (more solar radiation) plus we have a fair amount of uranium in the ground (more terrestrial radiation). We also have a lower leukemia incidence. Interesting, huh?
If you saw my previous post, you will note there are many factors that will affect the reading of a Geiger counter at these low levels being reported. I could probably list at least 20 more influencing factors beyond what I posted earlier. Take this map and readings with a grain of salt.
To all: I notice the US map readings are in counts per minute (CPM) and the Japanese readings are in uR/hr. Big difference. I’ve measured a lot of different places in the US and normal background readings will range from 5 to 50 uR/hr on the average. Spikes you see on the Japanese graphs are within normal background measurements. I for one was pleased to see this.

March 18, 2011 2:27 am

‘Since this is likely to be popular, and to minimize the page loads on the website’ – Slight mistake here, It’s not popular you and your web site are Mr Watts.

George Tetley
March 18, 2011 2:40 am

Watching France 24 TV news channel (0900) the Japanese Prime Minister said:
” There have been no readings of radioactivity in Japan that are high enough to be a harm to human health !” The reporter on the Japanese TV said that the media was to blame for a nuclear scare story.

George Tetley
March 18, 2011 2:43 am

The 0900 hours is European time.

Brian H
March 18, 2011 2:55 am

Time for turnabout.
Suggest they push a new slogan: “Get your Hormesis protective dose every day! Radiation doctors recommend 2-4 bananas.”
And the Instructibles site just informed me how to make 1-ingredient ice cream from them! Somewhat browned overripe bananas, hard frozen, chopped up, blended and then whipped for 3-4 minutes. Add vanilla, chocolate, berries, honey, etc. to taste.

Ed Dahlgren
March 18, 2011 3:16 am

Q: What are “Nuclear Power Site Location”s?
Q: Why are the numbers 2 to 3 times higher in Denver/Boulder than in Colorado Springs/Pueblo? Is the first one on top of Mt. Evans and the second one inside Cheyenne Mountain?
Q: What is that third location behind Denver/Boulder?
A: Many have asked for more details on Monitoring Stations and Nuclear Sites, etc. We would love to give all the data away free, and spend unlimited hours posting all of it on the web site for public benefit, but we fund this network out of our own pocket through the sales of our GeigerGraph for Networks Software that makes this all possible. So if you want the full capabilities of the Network, the Maps, and the Data, we ask that you shell out a few bucks for the software. Sorry – a little capitalism at work here – it’s how we make our living.
So the main point is this: We need more Monitoring Stations! The data is thin.
So thin that they have a total of 11 monitoring sites on the map, including (it looks like) their own in AZ … and they can’t post the locations?
Readers here would snort milk out their noses if they saw such undocumented info on an alarmist site.

John Marshall
March 18, 2011 3:21 am

OK so you have cracked the gamma what about alpha and beta and those danged neutrons.
I do not think that you will have any effect on the west coast. Even full blown ‘A’ and ‘H’ bomb testing in the Pacific had any real effect on the west coast but I suppose those Californians have to worry about something.

Jean Demesure
March 18, 2011 3:47 am

Thank you so much Leg for your informative posts

March 18, 2011 4:57 am

I am in central Missouri. I have a Medcom Radalert model 50. At this moment (7 AM), I had a count 58 taken over a period of 200, or 17.4 CPM. This is in the range of normal for these soil conditions.

March 18, 2011 5:07 am

Roger Sowell, “Here’s another data set, (see the link below) to US EPA’s RadNet data, for radiation counters across the USA. There are many other datasets in this also. One must register first, then obtain free access to the databank.
The RadNet data is taken hourly, and has beta and several types of gamma radiation counts from the stations. There are archives, data downloading in Excel(tm) and plotting capabilities. For a government website, not bad, actually.

Roger, thanks for the link but that has the most absurd log in requirements I have run across, password must be 8 characters that include one uppercase character, one lowercase character and one number but the password cannot begin or end with a number? Who the hell is doing IT security work for the EPA? That makes no sense. Restricting a password from beginning or ending with a number simply makes it easier crack. It is always better to make password requirements longer not harder to remember otherwise you simply waste time and resources recovering them because no one can remember them. Not to mention your account has to be I am assuming manually “verified” before they give you access? Access to what? Geiger counter readings? Silly. My concern is how are they “verifying” accounts since they are asking for full names, addresses and phone numbers. I will soon find out as I made a bogus account in Beverly Hills. If that does not work I bet it will go through with a random phone book entry. Leave it up to the government to make a service that should be easily accessible and freely available into some arcane process that does nothing to improve security.

March 18, 2011 5:11 am

Anthony- Map issue!!
Your map shows a nuclear power plant icon just to the east of Kansas City. That is not a power plant, but what is known locally as “the Bendix Plant”, a government facility south of downtown where components to nuclear weapons are manufactured. As far as I know, no nuclear materials are kept there. The only reason for it to be on any map is that after 9/11, when the government established no-fly zones around nuclear power plants, they also put one around this facility as well. Local pilots were bemused because we were sternly warned not to transit this airspace, but we were steadfastly refused every request for the geographic coordinates of the center of the forbidden circle. We must not go there, but we couldn’t know exactly where ‘there’ was. The forbidden area was far more for FAA radar scopes than for our aircraft navigation systems, that is unless you even clipped the boundary.
There are two nuclear research reactors in Missouri. Both are open pool designs operated by the University of Missouri. One is in Columbia, and one in Rolla. There is a nuclear power plant operated by AmerenUE just to the south east of Fulton. That one is depicted on your map.

March 18, 2011 5:13 am

Anthony, you forgot the link,

March 18, 2011 5:27 am

Bloomberg comment:
Much ado about nothing. I lived through open air testing in the 50s.

March 18, 2011 6:41 am

omg, I am laughing sooo hard at the messages on that poor geiger counter company’s homepage… So hysterical that they’ve been so swamped with orders that they straight out say, “We are not answering e-mails..”
Kind of a shame, a personal geiger counter sounds like a fun useless bit of technology to have lying around the apartment. I’ll wait until American’s get a f-ing grip on this stupid overblown scare and order one.
I’ve been telling everyone I know that there is no danger, the media is wrong. In fact, I find all this local reporting to be so horrifically irresponsible as to be worthy of an investigation.
These reactors in Japan are at ground level, and any radioactive particles that make it across the pacific still radioactive will generally *not* be gaseous, they will be solid particulate. Solid particulates FALL from the atmosphere (sometimes slowly), but they don’t easily remain aloft over a week-long trip across the ocean where rainstorms likely cleared the air of dust a few times.
Yet if you watch the local news, they show this absurd “model” plot of a radiation “plume” starting at Japan, and growing tremendously in area while losing zero potency from the dispersal shown nor the half-life of the material. It literally starts off as a small cloud of orange-to-blue gradient, and turns into a gigantic area of yellow and green (of whatever units, the reporters of course don’t tell you what the units of the color plot are), which is not reality.

March 18, 2011 6:48 am

Matt Thompson says:
March 17, 2011 at 10:18 pm
Correct me if I am wrong, but we seem to be getting slightly elevated levels in places with direct fights from Tokyo.

That number in Washington is nowhere near an international airport.

March 18, 2011 9:41 am

Geeks with Geiger counters. What a great world we live in. Everyone needs a hobby 🙂
By the way Mr. Watts has anyone ever thought of doing something like this up for weather stations? The officials take out properly sited and leave in the bad so do you know of anyone with ideas on setting up a volunteer bunch of properly sited weather stations?

Dan in California
March 18, 2011 11:24 am

I bought a cheap Geiger counter as a Christmas present for myself last year from these people: It only sees beta and gamma, but so what? You have to inhale an alpha emitter for it to be dangerous, as human skin stops alphas. They are sold out also, and claim to be getting more stock in mid April. The audible clicks give good CPM readings and the meter face seems reasonably well calibrated in uSv/Hr and mR/hr. I’m currently sitting in Morro Bay a few miles north of the Diablo Canyon reactors and am getting less than 20 CPM. That’s low and boring.

Al Gored
March 18, 2011 11:57 am

Using the methods of Hansenolgy for temperature stations, I would expect the nuclear alarmists to install radiation detectors beside banana import warehouses.

March 18, 2011 12:52 pm

Wow, I like the concept of the g-counter, it’s like most devilish clever way to to real-time monitoring map the whereabouts of Gore at all times. 0_O
But of course if he should stop eating bananas . . .

Aaron Schnelle
March 18, 2011 1:07 pm

Just a note. Probably inconsequential, but the US map shows not only nuclear facilities, but corporate offices. For example the corporate offices of the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation are in Wichita, KS while the actual plant is located in Burlington, KS. Same with the NPPD offices in Lincoln, NE associated with the Cooper Nuclear station. This could over populate the map with facilities.

March 18, 2011 1:42 pm

TRM, check the “Monitor your own climate” button at the top of the page. I haven’t heard of any effort to construct a voluntary network of these, serious weather/climate monitoring would probably require at least a Vantage Vue $355.50@, rather more of a commitment than the Geiger counters. Temperature monitoring alone can use the USB data loggers, which start at $59.95

March 18, 2011 1:51 pm

CNN is now reporting that “small amounts” of Japanese radiation have been detected in San Francisco.
I guess someone there finally opened their window.

Billy Liar
March 18, 2011 2:34 pm

High radiation levels in my kitchen. Granite countertop alert!
Wonder how many greenies have one of those in blithe ignorance of the properties of granite?

March 18, 2011 7:18 pm

I gave the site link to my local journalist, who was thrilled to get ahold of info outside of the government’s brick wall.
I was told that all the geiger counters were snapped up by Fed & Disaster agencies.
That action really stinks.

Ted Dooley
March 18, 2011 8:49 pm

Can the areas that aren’t getting an average CPM sell radiation credits to those who do?

March 18, 2011 9:47 pm

@ Poptech on March 18, 2011 at 5:07 am
I had no waiting period for verification after registering. It allowed almost instant access to the database. Took me a minute or so to figure out how to navigate the website and get to the RadNet data.
I also received almost instantly two emails from CDX, one stating the password must be changed every 90 days.

Darren Parker
March 19, 2011 12:08 am

I can’t keep Rad-X or Radaway in stock, says my local Vault Technician.

Barbara Pedrick
March 19, 2011 12:15 pm

I love how it’s the continental USA. Nothing much north, not even Alaska? or the Aleutian Islands where reportedly radiation should be hitting by today.

Phil McCrackin
March 21, 2011 11:19 am

Thank goodness you guys didn’t get the radiation (from what i can see).
Fingers crossed for Japan 🙁

Brian H
March 23, 2011 12:24 am

Bah. The radiation “hitting” the US is trivial. And there will be zero radiation casualties in Japan. It’s all hysterical hooey.

March 27, 2011 8:21 pm

boston : rainwater has radiation in it
concerns about water supply
people who arent taking this seriously have no clue about wtf you are talking about.
once it gets into food, children will be affected
the retard above is brain dead, there are still cancers in belarus because of fallout into the water.

Brian H
March 27, 2011 10:50 pm

bananas have lotsa radiation (K70, y’know?). Stay far way! Peanut butter is almost as bad.
You are clueless about radiation and biology. The Belarus numbers are pure computer projections based on the “no safe dosage” presumption. Which is false.

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