Geology & Geophysics AGU News

Science Societies Update Joint Stance on Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

In a revised statement, the American Geophysical Union and Seismological Society of America reaffirm their view that the capability to monitor the treaty should be expanded, completed, and sustained.


The American Geophysical Union (AGU) Board of Directors today approved an update to a joint position statement titled “The Capability to Monitor the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) Should Be Expanded, Completed, and Sustained.” The statement, originally adopted by AGU and the Seismological Society of America (SSA) in 1999, expresses the confidence of both societies that the scientific monitoring capabilities available to monitor compliance of the CTBT will meet goals for treaty verification and enforcement.

The chairman of the panel that reviewed the position statement for AGU and SSA, Bill Walter of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, stated in a joint AGU/SSA press release that data from the International Monitoring System “not only contribute to critical national security efforts but also to public safety by enhancing our global scientific understanding of the Earth and informing natural hazard mitigation efforts.” The International Monitoring System consists of hundreds of seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, and radionuclide facilities worldwide that monitor the planet for signs of nuclear explosions.

Although the CTBT has not been ratified by all required countries yet, including the United States, the update is timely as its approval coincides with the CTBT: Science and Technology 2017 Conference taking place this week in Vienna, Austria. This event will be the sixth such conference where the scientific community can collaborate and discuss monitoring issues with the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

Nuclear blasts in the atmosphere or underground at shallow depths may produce low-frequency sound waves that can be detected by CTBTO infrasound monitoring stations like this one on a South Atlantic island. Infrasound frequencies lie below the range of human hearing. Credit: The Official CTBTO Photostream (CC BY 2.0)

The joint position statement updated today was reviewed and reaffirmed by AGU and SSA in 2003, 2007, and 2012 and was endorsed by the Geological Society of America in 2009.

AGU develops and maintains position statements to provide scientific expertise on significant policy issues related to the understanding and application of the Earth and space sciences. Members are encouraged to use AGU’s position statements to guide conversations with students, local communities, policy makers, and other members of the public. AGU’s position statements are maintained in the AGU Resource Center. They, along with AGU’s Advocacy Policy, are valuable resources for those looking to connect with members of the public on issues related to Earth and space sciences.


  • Bill Walter, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (chair)
  • Raymond Jeanloz, University of California, Berkeley
  • Keith Koper, University of Utah
  • Thorne Lay, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Stephen Myers, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Paul Richards, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University
  • Brian Stump, Southern Methodist University

—Elizabeth Landau (email: [email protected]), Assistant Director, Public Affairs, AGU

Citation: Landau, E. (2017), Science societies update joint stance on Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, Eos, 98, Published on 29 June 2017.
Text © 2017. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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