ABSTRACT

Two nuclear explosions were carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea in January and September 2016. Epicenters were located close to those of the 2006, 2009, and 2013 previous explosions. We perform a seismological analysis of the 2016 events combining the analysis of full waveforms at regional distances and seismic array beams at teleseismic distances. We estimate the most relevant source parameters, such as source depth, moment release, and full moment tensor (MT). The best MT solution can be decomposed into an isotropic source, directly related with the explosion and an additional deviatoric term, likely due to near‐source interactions with topographic and/or underground facilities features. We additionally perform an accurate resolution test to assess source parameters uncertainties and trade‐offs. This analysis sheds light on source parameters inconsistencies among studies on previous shallow explosive sources. The resolution of the true MT is hindered by strong source parameters trade‐offs, so that a broad range of well‐fitting MT solutions can be found, spanning from a dominant positive isotropic term to a dominant negative vertical compensated linear vector dipole. The true mechanism can be discriminated by additionally modeling first‐motion polarities at seismic arrays at teleseismic distances. A comparative assessment of the 2016 explosion with earlier nuclear tests documents similar vertical waveforms but a significant increase of amplitude for the 2016 explosions, which proves that the 9 September 2016 was the largest nuclear explosion ever performed in North Korea with a magnitude Mw 4.9 and a shallow depth of less than 2 km, although there are no proofs of a fusion explosion. Modeling transversal component waveforms suggests variable size and orientation of the double‐couple components of the 2009, 2013, and 2016 sources.

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