Seismograph diplomacy

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When diplomatic negotiations for a Test Ban Treaty began in 1950s, the US and USSR had to agree on a mutual nuclear monitoring regime. Seismic surveillance could provide such a mechanism, but the negotiations were hampered due to the lack of standardized seismographs. Seismic stations around the world recorded signals on instruments with different frequencies and ranges, making it hard to compare data received at different stations around the world. Effective detection of nuclear explosions required the presence of modern standardized equipment at all seismic stations of international importance.
At meeting in Genève in 1958 and 1959 seismologist from east and west discussed the different models of seismographs threshold capabilities for detecting nuclear explosions. By 1959, it became clear that the US and USSR’s scientific arguments were influenced by political objectives. In response to the scientist’s inability to reach a consensus, the US, under the VELA program, initiated the World-Wide Standard Seismographic Network (WWSSN) in 1960. The networks full surveillance purpose was not disclosed to the participating nations, but instead presented as an advancement of basic seismology.
The first standardized seismograph was installed in 1961. By the next year, the US-team had installed 52 standardized systems around the globe. By 1964, 75 stations had been gifted with new, standardized instruments. At its peak, the WWSSN consisted of 120 stations worldwide.
Although invited, organizations in Eastern Bloc countries did not participate in the WWSSN. Nor did China, France and French-speaking African countries.
The progress of the WWSSN was presented in a global circulated newsletter propagating the benefits of the network. Each issue also featured a global map of WWSSN-station, showing the lack of stations in the USSR had none, illustrating how the USSR had chosen not contribute to the advancement of seismology.
Antal sider1
StatusUdgivet - 2020
Begivenhed9th Conference of the European Society for the History of Science - Bolog, Italien
Varighed: 31 aug. 20203 sep. 2020


Konference9th Conference of the European Society for the History of Science