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Global geophysics for security

CBTBO inspection team at work

Image Credit: CBTBO

Seismology has the potential to locate nuclear tests, including those carried out by North Korea. The British Geophysical Association devoted their main annual meeting to the challenges of supporting global security.

Nuclear tests – legal and illegal – can be detected using global arrays of seismometers, in the same way as earthquakes are. The annual New Advances in Geophysics meeting organised by the Births Geophysical Association (supported by the Royal Astronomical Society) focused in 2018 on the challenges for geophysics raised by this application of science. Sheila Peacock reviewed the discussion.

 If illegal tests are suspected, the Comprehensive Test-Ban-Treaty Organisation can conduct an inspection. Seismologists can characterise suspected events and support the CBTBO inspections, but must do so in line with an established protocol and a tight timescale. 

Understanding natural and unnatural seismic anomalies related to natural hazards such as undersea volcanic eruptions and magma movements can lead to the identification of undersea explosions and implosions – and events related to human activities.

Decisions are not always clear-cut and seismologists need to fine-tune models to support global security.

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