Seismic Methods of Identifying Explosions and Estimating Their Yield

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 4:55 PM
William R Walter, Sean Ricardo Ford, Michael Pasyanos, Moira L. Pyle, Stephen C Myers, Robert J Mellors, Arben Pitarka, Arthur J Rodgers and Teresa F Hauk, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA, United States
Seismology plays a key national security role in detecting, locating, identifying and determining the yield of explosions from a variety of causes, including accidents, terrorist attacks and nuclear testing treaty violations (e.g. Koper et al., 2003, 1999; Walter et al. 1995). A collection of mainly empirical forensic techniques has been successfully developed over many years to obtain source information on explosions from their seismic signatures (e.g. Bowers and Selby, 2009). However a lesson from the three DPRK declared nuclear explosions since 2006, is that our historic collection of data may not be representative of future nuclear test signatures (e.g. Selby et al., 2012). To have confidence in identifying future explosions amongst the background of other seismic signals, and accurately estimate their yield, we need to put our empirical methods on a firmer physical footing. Goals of current research are to improve our physical understanding of the mechanisms of explosion generation of S- and surface-waves, and to advance our ability to numerically model and predict them.

As part of that process we are re-examining regional seismic data from a variety of nuclear test sites including the DPRK and the former Nevada Test Site (now the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS)). Newer relative location and amplitude techniques can be employed to better quantify differences between explosions and used to understand those differences in term of depth, media and other properties. We are also making use of the Source Physics Experiments (SPE) at NNSS. The SPE chemical explosions are explicitly designed to improve our understanding of emplacement and source material effects on the generation of shear and surface waves (e.g. Snelson et al., 2013). Finally we are also exploring the value of combining seismic information with other technologies including acoustic and InSAR techniques to better understand the source characteristics. Our goal is to improve our explosion models and our ability to understand and predict where methods of identifying explosions and estimating their yield work well, and any circumstances where they may not.