Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 171, Issue 3, pp 507–521

Seismic Source Characteristics of Nuclear and Chemical Explosions in Granite from Hydrodynamic Simulations


  • Heming Xu
    • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
    • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Ilya N. Lomov
    • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Oleg Y. Vorobiev
    • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

DOI: 10.1007/s00024-012-0623-0

Cite this article as:
Xu, H., Rodgers, A.J., Lomov, I.N. et al. Pure Appl. Geophys. (2014) 171: 507. doi:10.1007/s00024-012-0623-0


Seismic source characteristics of low-yield (0.5–5 kt) underground explosions are inferred from hydrodynamic simulations using a granite material model on high-performance (parallel) computers. We use a non-linear rheological model for granite calibrated to historical near-field nuclear test data. Equivalent elastic P-wave source spectra are derived from the simulated hydrodynamic response using reduced velocity potentials. Source spectra and parameters are compared with the models of Mueller and Murphy (Bull Seism Soc Am 61:1675–1692, 1971, hereafter MM71) and Denny and Johnson (Explosion source phenomenology, pp 1–24, 1991, hereafter DJ91). The source spectra inferred from the simulations of different yields at normal scaled depth-of-burial (SDOB) match the MM71 spectra reasonably well. For normally buried nuclear explosions, seismic moments are larger for the hydrodynamic simulations than MM71 (by 25 %) and for DJ91 (by over a factor of 2), however, the scaling of moment with yield across this low-yield range is consistent for our calculations and the two models. Spectra from our simulations show higher corner frequencies at the lower end of the 0.5–5.0 kt yield range and stronger variation with yield than the MM71 and DJ91 models predict. The spectra from our simulations have additional energy above the corner frequency, probably related to non-linear near-source effects, but at high frequencies the spectral slopes agree with the f −2 predictions of MM71. Simulations of nuclear explosions for a range of SDOB from 0.5 to 3.9 show stronger variations in the seismic moment than predicted by the MM71 and DJ91 models. Chemical explosions are found to generate higher moments by a factor of about two compared to nuclear explosions of the same yield in granite and at normal depth-of-burial, broadly consistent with comparisons of nuclear and chemical shots at the US Nevada Test Site (Denny, Proceeding of symposium on the non-proliferation experiment, Rockville, Maryland, 1994). For all buried explosions, the region of permanent deformation and material damage is not spherical but extends along the free surface above and away from the source. The effect of damage induced by a normally buried nuclear explosion on seismic radiation is explored by comparing the motions from hydrodynamic simulations with those for point-source elastic Green’s functions. Results show that radiation emerging at downward takeoff angles appears to be dominated by the expected isotropic source contribution, while at shallower angles the motions are complicated by near-surface damage and cannot be represented with the addition of a simple secondary compensated linear vector dipole point source above the shot point. The agreement and differences of simulated source spectra with the MM71 and DJ91 models motivates the use of numerical simulations to understand observed motions and investigate seismic source features for underground explosions in various emplacement media and conditions, including non-linear rheological effects such as material strength and porosity.

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