Apr 15 – 16, 2019
University of Surrey
Europe/London timezone

A Study of Van Allen Belt Signatures of Nuclear Weapon Tests for Future CTBT Technologies

Apr 15, 2019, 5:30 PM
University of Surrey

University of Surrey

Guildford, UK


C.A. Steer (St Mary's University)


There are a number of measurement techniques employed to enforce the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), with complementary measurements of seismic and atmospheric radionuclide data being foremost. The potential for decoupling and trapping of radionuclide gases in underground nuclear tests places importance on the identification and characterization of new techniques. Earlier studies of charged particle data in low Earth orbit satellites have shown that seismic events can result in particle bursts, that can be detected. There is strong evidence for the precipitation of charged particles in the van Allen belts caused by seismic events. Particle bursts, that are coincident in time and expected location, in satellite-borne detectors have been observed with a >5-sigma significance with earthquake activity at the corresponding location in SAMPEX/PET, MARIA/SALYUT–7, GAMMA–1, and DEMETER. In this study, we first identified seismic signals in the data and then electron energy correlations around the
times of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) nuclear tests. Given the low numbers of DPRK nuclear tests, we first analyzed the data to examine temporal correlations with seismic activity. We observe temporally and spatially-correlated particle bursts starting just before seismic events and continuing throughout the period of activity. The correlations have a periodic character due to the eccentric GPS satellite orbit, where it dips into and out of the Van Allen belt during the seismic activity. Then we analyzed the times around the DPRK nuclear tests. For a very simple detection method, we find that we are unable to explain the cross-correlations in electron energy channels as being due to natural variability for four out of five DPRK tests. This suggests that the energy band cross-correlations, around the time of DPRK tests, appear to have a distinct charactrer than from all other natural periods (of, say, even seismic activity).

Primary authors

C.A. Steer (St Mary's University) F.M. Wach (University of Bristol) Jaap Velthuis

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