The United States Geological Survey (USGS) on Thursday detected a 2.9 magnitude earthquake 23km northeast of Sungjibaegam in North Korea, near the country’s nuclear testing site.
The quake took place at 1641 (UTC) at an estimated depth of 5km, and while the USGS said the quake appeared natural, it did not rule out the possibility of a nuclear test.
“This event occurred in the area of the previous North Korean Nuclear tests,” the USGS said in a statement. “The event has earthquake like characteristics, however, we cannot conclusively confirm at this time the nature (natural or human-made) of the event.”
“The depth is poorly constrained and has been held to 5 km by the seismologist. The Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) is the sole organization in the U.S. federal government whose mission is to detect and report technical data from foreign nuclear explosions.”
The magnitude of the test was much lower than the North’s most recent nuclear test on September 3, which measured 6.3 on the Richter scale.
Thursday’s earthquake follows a similar event on September 23, which was only slightly larger, measuring 3.4. According to the USGS, all three events took place at very similar locations.
The China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC) said the event may have been caused by an artificial explosion, but the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Lassina Zerbo said the quake was unlikely to be manmade.
A later joint report by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and UC Santa Cruz claimed the quake was likely caused by a collapsing tunnel, the LA Times reported on October 6.
“It was the mountain collapsing into the cavity created by the explosion… hundreds of meters below the surface,’’ Thorne Lay, a professor at UC Santa Cruz told the U.S. news outlet.
Prior to North Korea’s nuclear test in early September, the DPRK previously conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, 2013, and two in 2016, with explosive yields of less than one kiloton, 2-4 kilotons, 6-9 kilotons, 7-10 kilotons, and 20-30 kilotons, respectively.
Featured image: USGS
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