Spin-offs for disaster warning and science

Providing real-time tsunami warning data

Brochure on civil and scientific applications (PDF)

Imagine you're planning to spend your next summer vacation abroad, by the seaside. Mindful of the devastating tsunamis that struck the Indian Ocean region and Japan over recent years, you gather information about your destination only to discover that it is in a tsunami high-risk area. But don't cancel your flight just yet...

Even before entering into force, the CTBT is saving lives.United Nations General-Secretary
Ban Ki-moon
Tsunami warning centres in 13 countries (in green on the map) currently participate, receiving data from around 100 IMS stations (in red). Click to enlarge.

The Global Alarm System of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), designed to detect all nuclear explosions, can also detect earthquakes that can cause tsunamis. The information is picked up by seismic and hydroacoustic stations which monitor underground and the oceans respectively. It is provided by the CTBTO in near real-time to tsunami warning centres, in particular those covering the Pacific and Indian Oceans, to help them issue more timely and precise warnings. At present, tsunami warning centres in 13 countries with a high tsunami risk receive data from around 100 CTBTO stations. You can find out which Member States have concluded a tsunami warning agreement with the CTBTO in the Country Profile pages.



Hearing the volcano's roar

An eruption of one of the 600 volcanoes active today could cause jet engines to malfunction or stall completely.

You've just buckled up your seatbelt when your captain informs you that the flight route will need to be changed due to a volcanic eruption that has just occurred along the way...

The CTBTO's infrasound stations register any large source of infrasound, anywhere on the planet. Infrasound is sound vibrations at frequencies too low to be heard by the human ear. The stations detect for example volcanic eruptions or the breaking up of ice shelves. The CTBTO's Member States and international and national institutions responsible for aviation and maritime safety (for underwater volcanoes) receive this information so that they can warn their citizens.



Sniffing radioactive emissions

Click for dispersion simulation of the Fukushima power plant accident.
Click for article by WHO head Margaret Chan in CTBTO Spectrum.

You've arrived safely at your hotel only to learn there's been a nuclear accident in a neighboring country...

The CTBTO has 80 extremely sensitive sensors to detect radioactivity. Apart from detecting nuclear explosions, these stations will also register the dispersion of radioactivity stemming from other sources anywhere in the world, in particular from nuclear power plant accidents. This information is made available to all CTBTO Member States, whose radiation protection and public health agencies can use it to inform the public. This was the case during the 2011 Fukushima power plant accident, when the levels of radioactivity detected outside of Japan were found safe.

These [CTBTO monitoring] data were absolutely essential for WHO's work. These data allowed us to properly assess the constantly changing situation and to tailor public health guidance accordingly.Margaret Chan
Director-General of the World Health Organization

Recording Whale Song

Whale song, ice breaking, meteor blast - can you guess what our stations recorded?

You are finally enjoying your vacation. You take a whale-watching boat tour. Your guide explains you that the song of the male humpback whale can be heard for many kilometres in the oceans...

...and recorded up by the CTBTO's hydroacoustic stations. This is just one of the many of the uses of CTBTO data for science. Other uses include research on:

Climate Change Brochure (PDF)

A symposium at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in February 2013 in Boston, United States, discussed the "Unreasonable" Usefulness of Test-Ban Verification for Disaster Warning and Science. Non-verification uses of CTBTO data are also amongst the prominently discussed issues at the CTBT Science and Technology conferences, to which the broader scientific community is invited every other year. Next such gathering, the Science and Technology 2015 conference, will place in June 2015 in Vienna, Austria:

view all issues    
The science of sound: How 'soundscapes' can help us understand the underwater world
by Mark Prior, CTBTO
22 - Aug 2014 [PDF]
Looking into the Earth with CTBT seismic sensors
by Miaki Ishii, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, USA
21 - Sep 2013 [PDF]
The Chelyabinsk meteor: Massive blast detected by 17 infrasound stations
Interview with Margaret Campbell-Brown, Astronomer, University of Western Ontario, Canada
20 - Jul 2013 [PDF]
The noble gas releases from Fukushima: Some implications and reflections
by Anders Axelsson and Anders Ringbom, Swedish Defense Research Agency
20 - Jul 2013 [PDF]
The Fukushima nuclear accident: Lessons learned and possible implications
by Tatsujiro Suzuki, Vice Chairman, Japan Atomic Energy Commission
19 - Sep 2012 [PDF]
Buttressing the global tsunami warning network
by Wendy Watson-Wright, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO and Assistant Director General of UNESCO
18 - Mar 2012 [PDF]
Global radiation monitoring in the wake of the Fukushima disaster
by Kirsten Haupt and Thomas Muetzelburg
16 - May 2011 [PDF]
The Utilization of International Monitoring System Seismic Data by the Northwest Pacific Tsunami Advisory Center
by Yohei Hasegawa, Japan Meteorological Agency
13 - Sep 2009 [PDF]
The importance of Atmosphere Transport Modelling: Over ten years of cooperation between the World Meteorological Organization and the CTBTO (part 2)
by Peter Chen, Gerhard Wotawa and Andreas Becker
12 - Apr 2009 [PDF]
The importance of Atmosphere Transport Modelling: Over ten years of cooperation between the World Meteorological Organization and the CTBTO (part 1)
by Peter Chen, Gerhard Wotawa and Andreas Becker
11 - Sep 2008 [PDF]
The importance of IMS data for global climate change researchby
Professor Dr Helga Kromp-Kolb
10 - Aug 2007 [PDF]
The importance of PTS data for tsunami warning centresby Dr Patricio A. Bernal,
Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission,
Assistant Director-General of UNESCO
9 - Jan 2007 [PDF]
Monitoring volcanic eruptions with the IMS infrasound network 8 - Jul 2006 [PDF]
IMS data on natural radionuclides released for WMO Programmes 7 - Dec 2005 [PDF]
IMS hydroacoustic data offer a wide range of potential uses 6 - Jul 2005 [PDF]
Tristan da Cunha: An example of using CTBT data 5 - Dec 2004 [PDF]
Benefits of potential civil and scientific applications of CTBT verification technologies
by Bernard Massinon
4 - Jul 2004 [PDF]
Can CTBTO infrasound technology assist civil aviation?
by Dr. Hein Haak
3 - Dec 2003 [PDF]
The CTBT radionuclide network: Detecting radiological events from a canvas of radionuclides 3 - Dec 2003 [PDF]
Potential civil and scientific applications 2 - Jul 2003 [PDF]
How IMS seismic data can support earthquake research 1 - Dec 2002 [PDF]

Uses of CTBTO data for disaster mitigation and science