Local seismograph picked up North Korea nuclear tests, experts say

Seismic Monitor at Tuckaleechee Caverns (Source: WVLT)
Seismic Monitor at Tuckaleechee Caverns (Source: WVLT)(WVLT)
Published: Jul. 15, 2019 at 6:10 PM EDT
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Deep beneath the Earth's surface, in the depths of the underground, sits a computer like no other in Townsend, Tennessee.

"Well, our seismic station is the most sensitive seismic station on Earth," said Benjamin Vananda who works at Tuckaleechee Caverns in Townsend, where the seismograph is housed.

He said it can easily detect geographic changes like the rock slides East Tennessee experienced on July 11.

"You know with a rock slide, it is not very deep, so it's on the surface. So it'll show, but not a whole lot," explained Vananda.

Originally, the Tennessee Valley Authority installed the seismic station to see how water from the dams affects the tectonic plates of this region.

"The U.S. military got wind of how precise and sensitive it was and then they took it by the reins and started upgrading it," said Vananda, "We get quite a bit of earthquakes in this area cause these are ancient fault lines, but they're not really ever big."

Vananda explained that the caverns don't experience degradation of seismic vibration making it extra sensitive to vibrations.

"It'll detect any earthquake here on the planet, or any nuclear test in the world," said Vananda.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests in the past couple years that the seismograph has picked up. He said, "Both were larger than Nagasaki or Hiroshima and would have leveled Manhattan."

But at the end of the day, "You can't predict earthquakes whatsoever."

East Tennesseans may be interested to know that experts said they're only seeing an increase in activity in Oklahoma and New Zealand, not in Tennessee.

Copyright 2019 WVLT. All rights reserved.

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