Forensic Seismology


Like earthquakes, nuclear test explosions generate seismic waves which propagate through the Earth and can sometimes be detected many thousands of kilometres from the location of the explosion. Seismological methods therefore provide a powerful means of monitoring nuclear test explosions, something which is of interest to governments and for monitoring compliance with treaties such as the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

This talk will give an overview of the waveform technologies used to monitor nuclear test explosions and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

The talk will explore the work that is undertaken in the UK in this field, and to demonstrate some of the techniques currently used, results of detailed analyses of recent events of special interest, for example the recent North Korean Test explosions, will be presented.

As well as seismology, the talk will also show how other waveform technologies such as infrasound can also be used to identify and characterise explosion sources. One of the key tasks in forensic seismology is the ability to discriminate between the seismic signals generated by earthquakes and those generated by explosions.

Recent research aimed at improving our capabilities in this area will also be presented.

About the speaker

Dr Ross Heyburn

Since completing a PhD in earthquake source depth estimation, Dr Ross Heyburn has worked for the last six years as a seismologist in the forensic seismology group at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE). This group is responsible for providing the UK government with seismological advice relating to the monitoring of nuclear test explosions.

In his work at AWE, he specialises in developing tools for estimating the source parameters of small-to-medium sized seismic sources, something which is important for analysing seismic sources of special interest (e.g. nuclear test explosions, earthquakes near known nuclear test sites).

Dr Ross has published several papers on this work and the methodologies are also applicable to earthquake seismology.

Further information

This evening meeting is organised by SECED and chaired by Paul Doyle (Jacobs). Non-members of the society are welcome to attend. Attendance at this meeting is free. Seats are allocated on a first come, first served basis. For further information, please contact Greg James (tel. 020 7665 2229).

Event Details

Event Date 29/01/2014 6:00 pm
Institution of Civil Engineers
1 Great George Street Westminster, London SW1P 3AA United Kingdom
Institution of Civil Engineers

Location Map

Recordings of past events

Most of our evening meetings are recorded, including the biennial Mallet-Milne Lecture. The recordings are managed by the ICE and are made available for a year after the event. Go to ICE's Event Archive to find recordings of recent SECED events. SECED members (and ICE members) get exclusive early access to recorded lectures for a period of three months after the event. After this period, recordings are made available to all users.


The events archive is not actively maintained. This means that the information provided for each past event may no longer be correct. For example, people may no longer work for the companies to which they were previously affiliated, and hyperlinks may be broken. SECED assumes no responsiblity for the accuracy of any information contained in the events archive. 

Go to top