#18 - JRL 7033
January 24, 2003
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
RUSSIAN EXPERTS ON SEISMIC CONSEQUENCES OF IRAQ WAR
Unique research done by scientists of the Russian Academy
of Sciences and experts of the Defence Ministry on the basis of
the latest national discoveries show that a new Gulf war may
provoke a series of major geophysical catastrophes, such as
destructive earthquakes caused by the use of super-heavy
Aleksei NIKOLAYEV, a leading Russian expert on geophysics,
non-voting member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and head
of the experimental geophysics laboratory, told our
correspondent about the potential consequences of mass bombing
What we expect in Iraq will not be the first time to
happen, but the scale of catastrophe will be more destructive
not only for Iraq but for the region as a whole, said the
scientist. Take the NATO aggression in Yugoslavia in 1999. On
April 30, the 28th day of the bombing operation, a Force 5.5
(magnitude 4.5) earthquake took place outside Belgrade. It was
preceded by several smaller quakes that happened roughly 500 km
from the Yugoslav capital: in the Czech republic on April 16
and in Romania and Crimea on April 28.
Scientists noted then that a substantially larger number
of earthquakes happened in Europe within two weeks. According
to available information, the summary yield of the bombs
dropped on Yugoslavia amounted to roughly 500 kilotons. The
Americans dropped a similar amount on Kuwait and Iraq in 1991,
causing a serious increase in seismic activity there and in
The initiation effect of contact (surface) explosions
during bombing raids is several times lower than the effect of
underground explosions. But NATO is now using penetration bombs
that explode at a depth of several dozen metres, which greatly
increases the effect on the crust. Bombing can initiate
earthquakes not only by directly influencing the cores of
nascent tectonic quakes but also through other processes. It
can provoke the growth of cyclone activity owing to the
emission into the atmosphere of combustion products of fires at
oil storage tanks, as can well happen in Iraq.
As for the Balkans, we expect a growing threat of
destructive earthquakes after bombing raids not only in
Yugoslavia but also in Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and
Question: But several years have passed since the bombing
Answer: The thing is that the earth's crust absorbs
dynamic blows like a sponge and "discharges" them some time
later. It is difficult to say if this will happen in a month,
in a year, or in several decades. But it is a fact that these
explosions can provoke earthquakes.
Question: How far can the seismic wave reach?
Answer: Let's recall May 1998, when India and Pakistan
exploded nuclear bombs at their testing ranges. The summary
yield of explosions amounted to some 100 kilotons within 20
Eleven hours after the May 28 underground explosion of the
Pakistani bomb, a powerful Magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit an area
in Western China some 1,300 km away from the testing range. On
May 29 a Magnitude 5.3 quake hit Kyrgyzstan 1,500 km away from
the testing range, and on May 30 a Magnitude 6.8 quake reached
Afghanistan. Over 6,000 people died in those quakes and the
seismic wave spread to a distance of over 2,000 km.
Question: The Pentagon is not so mad as to use nuclear
bombs in Iraq, or is it?
Answer: What difference does it make? Today the effect of
conventional super-powerful munitions is as destructive as that
of nuclear bombs. Intensive bombing of Afghanistan in 2001
resulted in a series of earthquakes; the largest of them took
place in Afghanistan and Pakistan on March 3, roughly nine
hours after the Americans dropped some 100 tons of ground bombs
and several tons of powerful new vacuum bombs.
That bombing provoked a Force 6 quake in Dushanbe, a Force
4-5 quake in Tashkent and Samarkand, and a Force 3 quake in
Bishkek. The seismic effect of the spread vacuum explosion is
hundreds of times larger than the effect of an equal amount of
ground bomb explosives. In other words, the explosion of a
900-kg vacuum bomb will have the same effect as a 1-10 kiloton
detonation. In this case we can expect earthquakes within a
radius of up to 150 km. Unknowingly, the Americans had
successfully held a unique natural-technical experiment. We can
expect the growth of seismic activity in a vast area around
East and South Afghanistan, in the Pamirs, South Tien-Shan, the
Himalayas and the north-western part of India. Former Soviet
republics in Central Asia will also be hit by this wave.
Question: Has humankind created "seismic weapons"?
Answer: I wouldn't say so. The thing is that the
initiation effect can be felt only when the explosion affects a
ready core, the place where an earthquake was brewing. This
means that we must learn to predict the place and time of
earthquakes and solve the problem of short-term forecasting.
Today seismology cannot predict earthquakes sufficiently
correctly and will hardly learn to do so quickly, which is why
there are no "seismic weapons" and they will hardly be created.
Induced seismicity is one of the effects of modern warfare
and a result of intensive bombing of quake-prone territories.
It can take the form of one more, geophysical strike several
weeks after the end of bombing. Russian scientist forecast that
the use of powerful bombs in Iraq may provoke slow shifts in
the crust that would disrupt oil beds and destroy oil wells. As
a result of active "movement" of the crust, oil may dribble
into the new underground reservoirs, changing the location of
strategic oil fields.
It should be also remembered that oil and gas have been
produced in the region for decades, and their production is
connected with some of the most destructive earthquakes in the
past few years. The recent example is the Neftegorsk quake in
Sakhalin in 1975, which happened close to an oil field. An
earthquake was bound to happen in the region anyway, even if
several decades or centuries later.
So, humankind should be very careful with oil production.
Any military conflict close to oil-bearing fields can provoke
not just a series of man-induced catastrophes but also economic
and political disasters. Oil beds may vanish in Iraq's
neighbours - Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. What would happen
to the global economy in this case?