Nuclear Testing Rocks
The World - Earthquakes
And Eruptions Result?
By Peter P. (
Special for "Earth Changes Weekly"

Recent underground nuclear testing, first in India and then Pakistan, has rocked the world - in more ways than one.
Politically speaking, it caused an avalanche of protests and calls for sanctions from around the world.
In a more immediate sense, the blasts were seismically detected by stations around the world. And some evidence shows that the effects may not have stopped there.
The history of detecting underground nuclear explosions goes back a few years, when techniques to differentiate between such explosions and earthquakes were developed in the United States, at a nuclear testing site in the Nevada desert. Conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), researchers found, by analyzing the late-arrivig seismic waves (known as 'coda'), that explosions and quakes could be separated by the differences in the relative amplitudes of their high-frequency seismic signals. [1] In general, explosions create a lot of short-period, P-wave, activity; quakes generate smaller amounts of short-period activity, followed by large and erratic long-period, or surface wave, activity.
Decades earlier, seismographs had been installed at the site after workers noticed a number of times when earthquakes followed underground nuclear tests. From the data gathered by the instruments, geologists determined that the quakes were triggered because the explosions released natural tectonic stress. [2]
The U.S., however, wasn't the only country to make this determination. In the 1970s, the Soviet Union not only understood this, but took it to heart - by beginning a "tectonics weapon" research project. Its goal wasn't just to induce tectonic activity, but to attempt to direct it in a specific direction at a specific land target. In 1987, the Communist government ordered a major effort to develop such a weapon, which continued through the country's collapse and by Russia until 1992. Only the economic crisis reportedly put the program, first codenamed "Mercury" and later "Vulcan", on hold indefinitely. A few years later, its existence was exposed by 'Moscow News', in an article titled ''Earthquakes Made to Order''. [3]
This explosion-quake theory has held over the years . According to Gerard Fryer, of the University of Hawaii Insitute of Geophysics and Planetology, as recently as 1995, evidence supported the idea that such explosions could trigger small events, as strains readjusted themselves. [4] Roger Clark, a geophysics lecturer at the University of Leeds, concurs, saying there is some research that shows "apparent significant increases in earthquake activity at various magnitudes, usually less than magnitude-5.0, and up to 1,000 to 2,000 kilometers from underground nuclear exposions." [5]
A look at tectonic activity following the recent testing bears this out, to a certain degree. Three underground explosions near the India-Pakistan border, detonated by India on May 11, resulted in a seismic measurement of magnitude-5.2 . The fact that only one seismic event was recorded indicates that all three devices were probably detonated simultaneously. This occurred at 1013GMT (or at 3:13pm local time).
Within 24 hours, at May 12/0046GMT, a magnitude-4.5 quake struck southern Iran, centered at a location approximate 1800 kilometers away.
Another test, conducted in the same region of India on May 13 at 0620GMT, was followed less than 7 hours later by a magnitude-4.2 quake in southern Iran. Within 48 hours, nearby northwest Kashmir was hit by a magnitude-4.1 temblor, and northeast Taiwan (just over 3000km away) was struck by a 4.6 quake. Coincidence? Perhaps.
Soon thereafter, Pakistan began its own underground testing in response. On Thursaday, May 28, at 1030GMT devices were detonated beneath the ground in southwest Pakistan. A little over 8 hours later, some 2600km or so due west, in Egypt, a magnitude-5.5 quake occurred. Closer to ground zero, less than 1400km away, two quakes - 5.6 & 5.3 - hit southern China the same day. The next day, Kyrgyzstan - less than 2000km away - was struck by a 5.5 temblor. On Saturday, two quakes - one a small 4.7 tremor, the other deadly at magnitude-6.8 - occurred at the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border, about 1000-1200km due northeast.
Incredibly, another detonation was set off by Pakistan about six hours after that deadly quake. Within three hours, a 4.8 tremor struck the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan.
A similar effect can be seen over a longer period of time.
At the 2nd Annual Conference on the United Nations and World Peace, almost a decade ago, Gary Whiteford, Professor of Geology - University of New Brunswick, presented results of a study that looked at the long term effect. In his study, Whiteford looked at all earthquakes in the 20th century with intensities greater than magnitude-5.8 . He found that in the first half of the century, before nuclear testing, quakes greater than 5.8 occurred on an average of 68 times per year. Between 1950 and 1988, the rate rose "suddenly and dramatically" to an average of 127 annually. The U.S. military chalked it up to "coincidence". Whiteford responded, "The geographical patterns in the data, with a clustering of earthquakes in specific regions matched to specific test dates and sites do not support the easy and comforting explanation of 'pure coincidence'. It is a dangerous coincidence." With further analysis, Whiteford found that, in the case of so-called "killer quakes" - those in which one thousand or more people died - specifically those occurring between 1953 and 1989, some 62.5% of them struck within a few days after a nuclear test. [6]
The effect on volcanoes is a bit more speculative, with less evidence, but no less disturbing. On October 2, 1995, the French detonated a 100-110kiloton blast - in an atmospheric test - on the Polynesian Fangataufa atoll, after which Mount St. Helen's, in Washington state (US), experienced a series of tremors. Within the next two weeks, New Zealand's Mt. Puapehu showed intense activity after erupting near a ski resort. On October 9, Java's Mt. Merapi experienced increased activity and Japan's Mt. Hosshu erupted for the first time in 257 years. [7]
After another test on December 27, on nearby Mururoa atoll, again by the French, Mt. Hosshu erupted again during the first week of January 1996. Another nuclear test followed on January 27; the Kiluea volcano on Hawaii erupted in early February. Three days after that Jan. 27 test, a magnitude-6.2 & 6.7 quake hit New Zealand and a magn-5.8 struck the Kuril Islands. [7]
While there appears to have been an increase in volcanic activity as recently as in the last 1 1/2 months, many active volcanoes predated the mid- and late- May '98 testing, and those that followed may be an instance of increasing activity that - coincidentally - has run concurrently with the latest underground blasts. But past evidence, at the very least, should make the possibility of a connection an idea to consider.
What effects, if any, could the recent tests have on the atmosphere?
A study conducted about two decades ago, by researchers at Tokai University, Japan, concluded that "abnormal meteorological phenomena, earthquakes and fluctuations of the Earth's axis are related in a direct cause-and-effect to testing of nuclear devices... by applying the dates of nuclear tests with a force of more than 150 kilotons, we found that the position of the (geomagnetic) pole slid radically at the time of the nuclear explosion... Some of the measured changes measured up to one meter in distance." [8]
It is already known that atmospheric nuclear tests can be detected from Earth's orbit, as a satellite - called the FORTE' satellite - is currently being designed, which will be able to detect such tests from above by measuring the nuclear-generated electromagnetic pulse it generates.
In the 1950s, above ground detonations released ionized particles into the atmosphere, which affected the ionosphere. The ionosphere is an electrically-charged sphere surrounding the Earth's upper atmosphere. It ranges between 40-560 miles above the planet's surface. Above that layer is the Magnetosphere, an airless protective envelope created by the Earth's magnetic field, which begins from about 560 miles above the surface.
The question is, then, can underground testing generate enough energy to escape, and be detected? From what India's officials said, no atmospheric fallout was detected. But can one go by that alone?
Incredibly, in the last ten years, including one occurrence within the two-week period following India's tests, the aurora borealis - the Northern Lights, seen when particles from the Sun interact with the magnetosphere at the North Pole - has been behaving in odd ways.
When the magnetosphere is energized, electrons and ions should be drawn towards the magnetic poles and appear to 'connect' in a circular fashion. However, what has occurred on occasion has been polar arcs forming on both the dusk and dawn sides and co-existing in the polar cap at the same time. The aurora has two weak 'crossbars', one that expands the polar region and another that extends but fails to make a clear connection on the other side. [9] Scientists have no explanation for this 'transpolar arc'.
Since observing the aurora - the so-called "footprint of the magnetosphere" - is a way to indirectly observe what is happening deep in the magnetosphere, the question remains - What is going on, and what is affecting the magnetosphere?
Could nuclear testing not only affect the inner Earth, but its outer reaches as well? It should be considered, even if speculative at this point, until the possibility is scientifically eliminated. And until the effects on any and every point on the Earth are debated, all testing should be halted.
- Bibliography: [1] W.R. Walter "Identifying Clandestine Underground Nuclear Testing by Their Seismic Signatures", LLNL report, May 1996; [2] "Seismic Ground Effects from Nuclear Explosions" Geological Society of America (1970); [3] Karen Nakamura "A Nuke-Earthquake Report", The Coastal Post, Dec. 96; [4] Ask-A-Scientist Online, Oct. 9, 1995; [5] Omni Mag, May '98; [6] G.T. Whiteford, "Earthquakes & Nuclear Testing: Dangerous Patterns & Trends", University of New Brunswick, April '89; [7] Karen Nakamura "Final Nuke-Earthquake Report", The Coastal Post, April '96; [8] S. Matsume & Y. Kato "Recent Abnormal Phenomena on Earth & Atomic Power Tests", Tokai University, 1976; [9] BBC "Odd Behaviour at the North Pole", May 29, 1998.

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