ABSTRACT

Seismologists distinguish underground nuclear explosions from more commonly occurring earthquakes using moment tensor inversion, high‐frequency P/S amplitude ratios, mb:Ms comparisons, and P‐pP differential travel times. These methods are generally successful for large seismic events (M>34) well recorded at regional‐to‐teleseismic distances (>150  km); however, it is unclear whether they can be modified to work for small events (M<3) well recorded only at local distances (<150  km). Here, we evaluate a recently proposed, local‐distance seismic source discriminant—the difference between local magnitude (ML) and coda duration magnitude (MC)—using seismograms of earthquakes and buried, single‐fired chemical explosions recorded in three regions of the western United States. The quantity MLMC was previously found to be sensitive to source depth, effectively discriminating mine blasts, induced earthquakes, and very shallow tectonic earthquakes from deeper crustal earthquakes. In this study, we report the first evaluation of MLMC as a depth discriminant using data from buried, single‐fired explosions that, unlike the seismic sources studied earlier, are good analogs for underground nuclear explosions. We find that even when using generic, uncalibrated methods of assigning magnitudes, MLMC separates single‐fired explosions and earthquakes. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve is 0.92 for 19 explosions and 14 earthquakes in Washington, 0.90 for 22 explosions and 90 earthquakes in Wyoming, and 0.99 for three explosions and 149 earthquakes in Nevada. ML:MC comparisons have the potential to enhance discrimination based on high‐frequency P/S amplitudes ratios—which perform less well at local than regional distances—because the two metrics have complementary sensitivities.

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