NUCLEAR TEST BAN SPURS RESEARCH INTO UK¹S ROCKY FOUNDATIONS
Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 May 2010 20:01
Published on Thursday, 24 February 2005 00:00
The vital role UK earth scientist play in monitoring the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and how their research is leading to a greater understanding of what the Earth is like under the British Isles, is the subject of a two-day meeting in London on the 7th and 8th of February.
Sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society and the British Geophysical Association, the international gathering of seismologists and other earth scientists takes place in the Geological Society's lecture theatre in Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1. The meeting is open and media representatives are welcome. Full details are available at http://www.gsrg.nmh.ac.uk/ras_mtg.htm.
Seismology - the detection of shock waves travelling through the Earth as a result of earthquakes or underground explosions - is a crucial element in the verification of test ban treaties. When used for this purpose, it is called forensic seismology. Dr David Booth of the British Geological Survey, one of the meeting organisers, explained, "During the negotiations leading to the United Nations adopting the CTBT in 1996, people were concerned about whether the treaty could be verified adequately. But 40 years of scientific research, principally in forensic seismology, showed that verification would be possible."
Global verification is administered by the CTBT Organisation in Vienna. An International Data Centre archives data from the international monitoring system and distributes it to signatory states. The monitoring system records disturbances in the sea and the atmosphere as well as in the earth. Most events - thousands each year - turn out to be earthquakes, but explosions detonated in mining activities, and other events such as the explosion of the Russian submarine 'Kursk', are also recorded.
Many important contributions to forensic seismology have been made by UK scientists working for the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Seismology Group at Blacknest, Berkshire. The first day of the meeting reviews these contributions, and also marks the retirement of Professor Alan Douglas, who led pioneering research there, which considerably assisted the negotiation of a verifiable CTBT.
The second day's discussions are devoted to scientific work that is enabling seismologists world-wide to improve seismic event location, using UK data and events. "For effective verification of the CTBT", says Dr Booth, "we have to be able to pinpoint seismic events accurately. In the UK we are contributing to this effort by building a detailed picture of how the Earth's crust and mantle beneath the British Isles respond to seismic events."
Dr Jacqueline Mitton (RAS Press Officer)
Phone: 01223 564914 Fax: 01223 572892
Contacts for this release: Dr David C Booth, British Geological Survey
Peter Marshall OBE, AWE Blacknest
At the meeting: via Royal Astronomical Society staff at the Geological
Society, Burlington House. Phone: 0207 734 2356