Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Forensic Seismology Provides Clues To Kursk Disaster

Date:
January 23, 2001
Source:
American Geophysical Union
Summary:
Seismologists have determined that explosions, not collision, indeed caused the sinking of the Russian submarine Kursk last year. Underwater explosions create distinctive seismic signals that were recorded up to 5,000 kilometers away.

WASHINGTON - The explosions that sank the Russian submarine Kursk on August 12, 2000, triggered shock waves that were recorded by a network of seismic stations in the Baltic region and beyond. Now, forensic seismologists have used these data to reconstruct the disaster. Writing in the January 23 issue of Eos, the weekly newspaper of the American Geophysical Union, Keith D. Koper and Terry C. Wallace of the University of Arizona and Steven R. Taylor and Hans E. Hartse of the Los Alamos National Laboratory report that, based on their analysis of seismograms, explosions, not impact, caused the Kursk to sink with the loss of all crew members.

Related Articles


The authors note that underwater explosions are highly efficient producers of seismic signals, and these have been long studied, including those generated by the sinking of a Soviet submarine in 1989. The Kursk seismic data possess features unique to underwater explosions, a strong indication that the Kursk did not sink because of a collision or other impact, they say.

Seismic stations recorded two explosions that correspond to the Kursk disaster in time and place. The first explosion was 250 times smaller than the second one, which occurred 135 seconds later. The earlier explosion was clearly recorded only at a few nearby stations, while the second one released energy equivalent to around five tons of TNT and was recorded up to 5,000 kilometers [3,100 miles] away.

Koper and his colleagues note that this area of the Barents Sea rarely experiences any seismic activity, so it was highly unlikely that the seismic signals were caused by an earthquake. One point of careful analysis, they say, concerned whether the second event consisted of one massive explosion or several simultaneous smaller ones and perhaps also impact of the Kursk on the seafloor.

The most compelling seismic evidence that the main Kursk event was dominated by an explosion was the observation of a "bubble pulse." This pulse results from oscillations of a bubble of hot gases unleashed by an explosion as it rises toward the surface. The spectral pattern produced by an underwater explosion and recorded by seismic stations provides strong evidence that the second explosion was one massive event, not several smaller ones.

The approximate size of the main Kursk explosion can be determined, thanks to a series of calibrated tests conducted by Israeli scientists in the Dead Sea in November 1999. The authors note that the largest Israeli explosion produced a signal similar to that of the Kursk, and both were recorded by a German seismic array, located at virtually equal distance between the Dead Sea and the Barents Sea.

Putting seismic data together with other reliable information, the authors are able to provide a more solid explanation of the Kursk disaster than if they were limited to the seismic data alone.

It is believed that the first explosion occurred with the Kursk near the surface, as its periscope was filmed in the up position on the seafloor. Also, it had radioed for permission to fire ordnance just before the first explosion. That explosion produced a seismic record consistent with 250 kilograms [550 pounds] of high explosive, equivalent to the warhead of a modern torpedo. The scientists conclude that a torpedo misfired or exploded prematurely, and that the submarine absorbed a large fraction of the energy released.

As for the large second seismic signal, the authors conclude that it was not from impact with the seafloor, as the Kursk would have sunk the 80-100 meters [265-330 feet] much faster than the 135 seconds between the seismic signals. They say the boat may have remained above the seabed for a time after the first explosion or that the explosion occurred on the sea floor, but only after fire had finally reached other warheads on board. The main event is consistent with the explosion of four to eight SS-N-19 ship-to-ship missiles, which the Kursk carried, or one cruise missile tipped with conventional high explosive warheads.

The authors note that the seismic data they used came from openly available sources, recorded at some of the 16,000 stations permanently installed around the world. Their availability has enabled forensic seismologists to assist law enforcement agencies in cases of terrorist bombings, gas pipeline explosions, and firework factory detonations.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Geophysical Union. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Geophysical Union. "Forensic Seismology Provides Clues To Kursk Disaster." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 January 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/01/010122094229.htm>.
American Geophysical Union. (2001, January 23). Forensic Seismology Provides Clues To Kursk Disaster. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/01/010122094229.htm
American Geophysical Union. "Forensic Seismology Provides Clues To Kursk Disaster." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/01/010122094229.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) EU leaders achieve a show of unity by striking a compromise deal on carbon emissions. But David Cameron's bid to push back EU budget contributions gets a slap in the face as the European Commission demands an extra 2bn euros. David Pollard reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tornado Rips Roofs in Washington State

Raw: Tornado Rips Roofs in Washington State

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) A rare tornado ripped roofs off buildings, uprooted trees and shattered windows Thursday afternoon in the southwest Washington city of Longview, but there were no reports of injuries. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fast-Moving Lava Headed For Town On Hawaii's Big Island

Fast-Moving Lava Headed For Town On Hawaii's Big Island

Newsy (Oct. 24, 2014) Lava from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island has accelerated as it travels toward a town called Pahoa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins