Update, Geiger counters in airplanes

I have previously commented on a person’s observation of using a Geiger Counter in an airplane.   My family recently went to Hawaii, and I decided to bring a Geiger Counter.   I selected the Mazur 8000 end plate Geiger counter, for which I have established a average rate of 13 counts per minute (13 cpm).  If one changes the units on the Geiger counter, this is equivalent to .13 microseverts per hour. This Geiger counter also functions as a dosimeter; it is able to calculate doses over time.  This is useful, because there is a lot a variability in radioactive counts from minute to minute; after 5-10 minutes the average becomes stable.

I will summarize my findings now.   The average dose is in the range of 300-350 cpm, which is equivalent to 3.00-3.50 microSeverts per hour. Multiply by six hours, and the total dose is about 20 microseverts, or 2 mRem. This is consistent with data published by the EPAFor comparison, from a table put out by the NRC:

Medical Procedure Doses
Procedure Dose (mrem)
X-Rays-single exposure
Mammogram (2 views)
Nuclear Medicine
Full body

The radiation from a trip by airplane from coast to coast should produce about 1/5 the dose produced by  chest X-Ray.

I flew out of Boston, and watched the Geiger counter reading rise from about 13 to 265 cpm.HT1

At that point I started recording blocks of time.  Over Illinois I collected my first data set:

Over Illinois, for duration of 1h 58 min

Average High Low total
308 365 233 36K

Over Nebraska, for 1h 59m

Average High Low total
326 391 258 39K

Over Utah for 57 min

Average High Low total
351 398 306 20K

HT2This shows a tendency for the counts to be higher as the samples were taken in a westward sequence.

While in San Francisco, CA I took several long samples.

For a period of 1d 11h on 12/20

Average High Low total
12 25 3 27K

For another period of 1d 8h on 12/22

Average High Low total
12 27 3 24K

On 12/22 we flew to Hawaii, and for the 2h 11m in the plane

Average High Low total
224 285 189

Later that day we flew in a plane to the Big Island:

Average High Low total
204 280 143 28K

Then we stayed near Hilo, one of the rainiest places in the whole USA, during the rainiest month.

For 3d and 18h

Average High Low total
10 23 1 45

We went to the visitors center on Kilauwe, the highest mountain, to 9000 feet elevation, and we found

for 1h 56m

Average High Low total
16 27 4 1.8K





3 thoughts on “Update, Geiger counters in airplanes

  1. Newscorner

    As someone who has no experience at all with geiger counters, I need at least a wee bit of interpretation. Are any of these numbers higher than expected? Are they higher than usual background? What do these numbers mean?

  2. Pingback: Geiger Counters in airports | Vernon Radiation Safety

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