Seismologists say their research can help track secret nuclear weapons tests

Oct 2, 2019, 10:50 PM | Updated: Oct 3, 2019, 7:57 am
(Credit: David Titensor, University of Utah)...
(Credit: David Titensor, University of Utah)
(Credit: David Titensor, University of Utah)

UNIVERSITY OF UTAH – Could the people that monitor earthquakes help protect global security?  One University of Utah seismologist is calling on the UN to better use meters around the world to spot secret nuclear weapons tests that may have been going unnoticed.

You may be surprised to learn how sensitive seismometers are.  Officials with the University of Utah Seismograph Stations say they can pick up construction, traffic and even wind.

“The seismometers are sensitive enough to record one-billionth of a meter [of movement],” according to Director Keith Koper.

Devices in Utah were able to detect and record six different nuclear weapons test explosions in North Korea.

Koper says, “I think it is counter-intuitive that something so far away could be recorded, but that’s the way the physics work.”

Currently, the UN oversees the International Monitoring System, which tracks quakes all over the world.  Koper is calling on the UN to use that system to possibly track where these weapons are being tested.  However, he says the system, as it is now, might not be sufficient.

“That network is really good, the IMS, but, if you really want to get down to tiny explosions, you need to add to it,” Koper says.

There are smaller test explosions that Koper says could only be well-tracked from less than 150 miles.  If devices are further away, these smaller tests may appear like regular earthquakes.  He says there are many meters all over the world that aren’t being used by the IMS.

He says, “There are a ton of seismometers in South Korea that are not used by the IMS.  There are a lot of seismometers in Japan.”

Today’s Top Stories


A screenshot of a facebook post made to the parents of Macie Hill....
Mark Jones

Father of girl who died in Kaysville parade is thankful for those who helped

An 8-year-old girl died Monday in an accident during the Kaysville Fourth of July Parade. Her father is thankful for all who assisted his daughter.
1 day ago
break car window dog...
Mark Jones

Dog dies after being left in hot car for more than an hour

A dog died Tuesday after being left in a hot car for more than an hour, according to Salt Lake County Animal Services.
1 day ago
A house in Spanish Fork was on fire late Monday night....
Mark Jones

Spanish Fork house catches fire after fireworks not properly extinguished

Officials said a house fire in Spanish Fork was a result of recently used fireworks not being disposed of properly. No serious injuries were reported.
1 day ago
Utah Highway Patrol stopped 4,937 vehicles over the Fourth of July weekend....
Mark Jones

Busy Fourth of July weekend for Utah Highway Patrol

In statistics released Tuesday, the Utah Highway Patrol says its Troopers made contact with 4,937 drivers over the Fourth of July weekend, making it a busy one.
1 day ago
Utah County Sheriff's Office badge....
Mark Jones

As one blaze is nearly contained, new Soldier Fire starts up

The Soldier Fire started up Tuesday in Utah County. According to Utah Fire Info, the blaze is near Highway 68 at milepost 15.
1 day ago
The Kaysville Fourth of July Parade is canceled after a medical emergency....
Kira Hoffelmeyer

8-year-old girl in critical condition after getting injured at Kaysville parade

KAYSVILLE, Utah — An 8-year-old has been critically injured during the Kaysville City Fourth of July parade. Kaysville Police say the girl was taken to a hospital for her injuries. This happened at 175 S. Main St in Kaysville. It’s unclear if the child fell off the float and was hit, or if she was […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Seismologists say their research can help track secret nuclear weapons tests