The rise, collapse, and compaction of Mt. Mantap from the 3 September 2017 North Korean nuclear test

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Surveillance of clandestine nuclear tests relies on a global seismic network, but the potential of spaceborne monitoring has been underexploited. We used satellite radar imagery to determine the complete surface displacement field of up to 3.5 meters of divergent horizontal motion with 0.5 meters of subsidence associated with North Korea’s largest underground nuclear test. Combining insight from geodetic and seismological remote sensing, we found that the aftermath of the initial explosive deformation involved subsidence associated with subsurface collapse and aseismic compaction of the damaged rocks of the test site. The explosive yield from the nuclear detonation with best-fitting source parameters for 450-meter depth was 191 kilotonnes of TNT equivalent. Our results demonstrate the capability of spaceborne remote sensing to help characterize large underground nuclear tests.

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