Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 170, Issue 4, pp 547–560 | Cite as

Underwater Explosion (UWE) Analysis of the ROKS Cheonan Incident

  • So Gu Kim
  • Yefim Gitterman


The underwater explosion (UWE) resulting in the sinking of the South Korean warship, ROKS Cheonan occurred on March 26 2010. Raw data was analyzed from several 3-component stations—Baengyeong-do Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) station (BAR), Ganghwa KMA station (GAHB), Incheon Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) station (INCN), the short-period station—Deokjeok-do KMA station (DEI), as well as from the seismo-acoustic array Baengyeong-do Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM) station (BRDAR). The ROKS Cheonan incident has been investigated by both the Multinational Civilian-Military Joint Investigation Group (Ministry of National Defense, 2010) and Hong (Bull Seism Soc Am 101:1554–1562, 2011). Their respective methods and conclusions are also presented in this study. One of the main differences between their findings and ours is that we deducted that the fundamental bubble frequency was 1.01 Hz with a subsequent oscillation of 1.72 Hz. Also, in contrast to findings by the MCMJIG and Hong, our analysis shows the first reverberation frequency to be 8.5 Hz and the subsequent one to be ≈25 Hz. The TNT-equivalent charge weight (seismic yield) and seismic magnitude were estimated from an observed bubble frequency of 1.01 Hz and the analytical model of a bubble pulse. From the data analyzed, we deducted that the seismic yield would be about 136 kg of TNT, which is equivalent to the individual yield of a large number of land control mines (LCM) which were abandoned in the vicinity of the ROKS Cheonan incident by the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy in the 1970s (Ministry of National Defense 2010). Also, whereas both the MCMJIG and HONG estimated the local magnitude at 1.5, our findings came to the conclusion of a local magnitude of approximately 2.04 based on the bubble frequency of 1.01 Hz measured on the vertical component of BAR station data considering the empirical relationship between charge weight (TNT yield) and underwater explosion magnitude. Strong high-frequency signals collected at the 3-component BAR station approximately 30 s after P-wave arrivals and infrasound records at BRDAR clearly indicate powerful acoustic phases and N-waves caused by a relatively shallow UWE. T-phases are also observed on seismograms and spectra at 15–17 Hz on the DEI, GAHB, and INCN stations.


Bubble pulse bubble collapse toroidal bubble whipping T-phase N-wave 



The authors thank Boo Cheong Khoo (National University of Singapore), and Aman Zhang (Harbin Engineering University) for the insightful and informative discussions regarding this work. The bubble pulse periods by a boundary element method were calculated by Aman Zhang, Harbin Engineering University. Special appreciation is expressed to Aman Zhang for his contribution concerning a boundary element method and the bubble shape simulation.


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© Springer Basel AG 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Korea Seismological InstituteGoyangSouth Korea
  2. 2.Geophysical Institute of IsraelLodIsrael

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