A New Database of Digitized Regional Seismic Waveforms from Nuclear Explosions in Eurasia

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Paul G Richards1, Inna N. Sokolova2, Won-Young Kim3 and Natalya N. Mikhailova2, (1)Columbia University, Palisades, NY, United States, (2)Institute of Geophysical Research, KNDC, Almaty, Kazakhstan, (3)Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, NY, United States
Seismology is an observational science. Hence, the effort to understand details of seismic signals from underground nuclear explosions requires analysis of waveforms recorded from past nuclear explosions. Of principal interest, are regional signals from explosions too small to be reliably identified via teleseismic recording.

But the great majority of stations operated today, even those in networks for nuclear explosion monitoring, have never recorded explosion signals at regional distances, because most stations were installed long after the period when most underground nuclear explosions were conducted; and the few nuclear explosions since the early 1990s were mostly recorded only at teleseismic distances. We have therefore gathered thousands of nuclear explosion regional seismograms from more than 200 analog stations operated in the former Soviet Union. Most of them lie in a region stretching approximately 6000 km East-West and 2000 km North-South and including much of Central Asia. We have digitized them and created a modern digital database, including significant metadata. Much of this work has been done in Kazakhstan. Most of the explosions were underground, but several were conducted in the atmosphere.

This presentation will characterize the content and overall quality of the new database for signals from nuclear explosions in Eurasia, which were conducted across substantial ranges of yield and shot-point depth, and under a great variety of different geological conditions.

This work complements a 20-year collaborative effort which made the original digital recordings of the Borovoye Geophysical Observatory, Kazakhstan, openly available in a modern format (see

For purposes of characterizing explosive sources, it would be of assistance to have seismogram archives from explosions conducted in all regions including the Pacific, North Africa, and the United States (including the Aleutians). Openly available seismogram archives for Eurasian explosions are in several respects now better than those for explosions conducted by the United States, France, and the UK, especially for the era from 1960 to about 1985. The opportunity to build and improve such archives will not last indefinitely.