The rise, collapse, and compaction of Mt. Mantap from the 3 September 2017 North Korean nuclear test

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Science (2018)


Surveillance of clandestine nuclear tests relies on a global seismic network, but the potential of spaceborne monitoring has been underexploited. Here, we determined the complete surface displacement field of up to 3.5 m of divergent horizontal motion with 0.5 m of subsidence associated with North Korea’s largest underground nuclear test using satellite radar imagery. Combining insight from geodetic and seismological remote sensing, we found that the aftermath of the initial explosive deformation involved subsidence associated with sub-surface collapse and aseismic compaction of the damaged rocks of the test site. The explosive yield from the nuclear detonation with seismic modeling for 450m depth was between 120-304 kt of TNT equivalent. Our results demonstrate the capability of spaceborne remote sensing to help characterize large underground nuclear tests.