Thursday 21 November 2019

This seismologist’s reaction to North Korea’s nuclear test is about as candid as it gets

It’s quite brief…

An image from the North Korean government of leader Kim Jong Un
An image from the North Korean government of leader Kim Jong Un

By Edd Dracott

North Korea has conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date, and for some late last night it was just two words from an expert that broke the news.

Steven Gibbons works as a seismologist who monitors evidence of nuclear testing. Here’s what he tweeted in the early hours this morning.


Naturally, this statement wasn’t what people wanted to hear from an expert on nuclear weapons.

In fact, it sounds like most people were looking for something a little more reassuring.

Oh dear.

Others were hoping Gibbons was just talking about something else.

In the end, the news came through that a test was indeed carried out at 12.29pm local time at the Punggye-ri site where North Korea has conducted nearly all of its past nuclear tests.

Gibbons released a graph showing the size of the earthquake caused by the blast, as measured on the Richter scale.

The artificial earthquake triggered by the detonation was several times stronger than from previous blasts and reportedly shook buildings in China and Russia.

Officials in Seoul put the magnitude of the quake at 5.7 while the US Geological Survey said it was 6.3.

A man walks past a TV screen

Prime Minister Theresa May has said the test poses an “unacceptable further threat to the international community”, and has urged world leaders to increase pressure on Pyongyang.

PA Media

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