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Published December 1969 | Published
Journal Article Open

Transient and residual strains from large underground explosions


Tectonic strain readjustments associated with large underground explosions have been observed at the Nevada Test Site. The BENHAM event of December 19, 1968 produced a peak quasi-static radial strain of 1.2 × 10^(−7) at a distance of 29 km. This strain transient was followed by an exponential return to the initial state with a time constant of 13 minutes, and is interpreted as the direct elastic response of the medium to a time varying pressure in the BENHAM cavity. An upper bound on the tectonic strain release was determined to be 0.7 × 10^(−8). Using these measurements it is estimated that the permanent and quasi-static strains associated with this explosion could significantly effect local earthquake occurrences out to distances of about 15 km. The size distribution of aftershocks of this explosion resembles that seen in model experiments of brittle fracture, in which the distribution is controlled by the dimensions of inhomogeneities in the medium.

Additional Information

Copyright © 1969, by the Seismological Society of America. Manuscript received June 14, 1969. This research was supported by the Effects Evaluation Division, Nevada Operations Office U.S.A.E.C., and by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under contract AF-AFOSR-62-421 Installation and operation of the equipment would not have been possible without the generous assistance of the U. S. Geological Survey personnel at Mercury, Nevada. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory made available the solar panels necessary for power at this remote location. We would also like to acknowledge the cooperation and assistance we received from many individuals associated with the Nevada Operations.

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