AGU and the Seismological Society of America update comprehensive nuclear-test ban treaty position


In April, AGU’s Board approved minor updates to the position statement entitled, “The capability to monitor the comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty (CTBT) should be expanded, completed and sustained,” which was first adopted in 1999 in collaboration with the Seismological Society of America (SSA).

The international monitoring system has matured considerably since 1999, with more than 326 out of 377 facilities completed. The changes to the statement, which were approved by AGU and SSA, reiterate the network’s continued importance for national security, as well as for scientific efforts to understand and mitigate natural hazards like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and climate change.

AGU Seismology Section leaders Suzan van der Lee, professor of geophysics at Northwestern University, and Martha Savage, professor of geophysics at the Victoria University of Wellington, reemphasized the impact of this treaty in the following statement:

‘The members of AGU’s seismology section want to restate the importance of the CTBT monitoring treaty. Data from the treaty’s International Monitoring System contributes not only to international security, but also to our collective scientific understanding of the Earth, including our ability to assess and mitigate hazards like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

In January, the monitoring system recorded seismic, ocean and atmospheric pressure waves from the rare eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano. This event underscores the importance of the network in helping scientists and hazard experts to characterize events that have global impact.

Network data from this eruption also provided a unique scientific opportunity for deepening fundamental understanding of similar explosions. We continue to learn how the waves they generate interact with the ionosphere, stratosphere, troposphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere, further supporting the mission of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.”

“A high-quality and well-maintained global network of seismometers and other geophysical instrumentation is vital for detecting and characterizing both open and clandestine nuclear explosions, as well as earthquakes and other natural hazards,” said Peggy Hellweg, operations manager for the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory (BSL) and former president of SSA.

AGU position statements—created, revised and approved by members—provide guidance on significant policy issues, ranging from climate change to education to national security.

AGU’s Position Statement Committee reviews existing statements in a recurring four-year process to decide which should be reaffirmed, retired or revised. Members can propose new position statements via this form.

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