Researcher Uses Forensic Seismology to ‘Fingerprint’ Mystery Explosions

If you think seismology concerns only earthquakes and plate tectonics, think again.
Terry Wallace represents a different breed of seismologist, that of forensic seismologist. By using seismic stations as “little ears to the ground,” Wallace continues to push the forefront of forensic seismology by studying the sinking of submarines, industrial explosions, nuclear weapons testing, landslides, and other unidentified phenomena that leave their mark by shaking the ground. Wallace, a geosciences professor at the University of Arizona, says that seismographic records can provide the tools necessary to reconstruct a sequence of events on land or in the ocean. “Seismological tools and theory can be used as constraints to tell when an accident occurs or something that’s not accidental, like a nuclear explosion. We can then put behind that some ideas of how big an explosion might be, or if it’s a landslide, how big the landslide might have been, or how far the rocks have fallen, for example,” he explains.

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