Free-Field Seismic Observations from Underground Nuclear Explosions

  1. Steven R. Taylor,
  2. Howard J. Patton and
  3. Paul G. Richards
  1. John R. Murphy

Published Online: 18 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/GM065p0025

Explosion Source Phenomenology

Explosion Source Phenomenology

How to Cite

Murphy, J. R. (1991) Free-Field Seismic Observations from Underground Nuclear Explosions, in Explosion Source Phenomenology (eds S. R. Taylor, H. J. Patton and P. G. Richards), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/GM065p0025

Author Information

  1. S-CUBED, Reston Geophysics Office, reston, Virginia 22091-5353

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 18 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1991

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875900315

Online ISBN: 9781118663820



  • Underground nuclear explosions—Detection—Congresses;
  • Seismology—Congresses


This paper presents a review of some of the characteristics of the ground motion measurements which have been made in the near-field of U.S. underground nuclear tests dating back to the RAINIER explosion in 1957. In particular, the complications involved in interpreting such data in terms of the seismic source characteristics of underground explosions are addressed and examples are presented which illustrate the confounding effects introduced by nonlinear medium response, source medium heterogeneity and interaction of the primary shock wave with the free surface above the shot point. On the other hand, examples are also presented which demonstrate that, despite these difficulties, the source characteristics which have been inferred from these near-field ground motion data have been shown to correlate remarkably well with the regional and teleseismic observations in some cases. Therefore, it is concluded that, although the available free-field seismic data are often incomplete and difficult to interpret, they can provide a valuable foundation for the development of seismic source models which can account for some important characteristics of the ground motion data observed from underground nuclear explosions.