Spin-offs for disaster warning and science
Even before entering into force, the CTBT is saving lives.United Nations General-Secretary
Providing real-time tsunami warning data
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...
The Global Alarm System of the Preparatory Commission for 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, 10 tsunami warning centres in high-risk areas receive data from around 60 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
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
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
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:
- The Earth’s core
- Climate change
- Meteor blasts (e.g. February 2013 Russian meteor)
- Break-up of ice shelves and the creation of icebergs
- Worldwide background radiation
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. The next gathering, the Science and Technology 2013 conference, took place in June 2013 in Vienna, Austria: