What Nuclear Bombs Taught Us About Whales

A monitoring system developed to listen for secret nuclear tests mostly hears other events happening all around Earth.

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If you want to learn more about this topic, start your googling with these keywords:
Infrasound: sound waves too low in frequency for humans to hear. The CTBTO stations detect frequencies of 0.02 to 4Hz
Hydroacoustic: having to do with underwater sounds. The CTBTO stations detect frequencies of 1-100 Hz
Seismic: oscillation waves in the earth, often caused by earthquakes or other tectonic activity. The CTBTO stations detect frequencies of 0.02-16 Hz

Credits (and Twitter handles):
Script Writer: Alex Reich
Script Editor: Kate Yoshida (@KateYoshida)
Video Illustrator: Jesse Agar
Video Director: Kate Yoshida (@KateYoshida)
Video Narrator: Kate Yoshida (@KateYoshida)
With Contributions From: Henry Reich, Ever Salazar, Emily Elert, Peter Reich, David Goldenberg
Music by: Nathaniel Schroeder:


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A Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945:

Sound travels 1000s of miles in the ocean’s SOFAR channel:


Sounds in the video that were recorded by CTBTO stations:

0:32 Kasatoshi volcano eruption in August 2008, detected 2100km away at infrasound station on mainland Alaska. Sped up 500x

0:35 Explosion of Antares rocket in October 2014, detected 1100km away at Bermuda infrasound station. Sped up 150x and video:

0:37 Ship engine detected June 1 2017 by hydroacoustic station. Sped up 16x

0:40 Waves hitting an iceberg and causing it to vibrate like a cymbal in July 2010. Detected by hydroacoustic station off of Western Australia. Sped up 16x

1:01 Whale call Feb 18 2017, detected by hydroacoustic station. Sped up 16x

1:08 Chelyabinsk meteor airburst February 15 2013, detected by infrasound station 650km away in Kazakhstan. Sped up 135x

1:39 Earthquake Jan 2 2017, detected by infrasound station. Sped up 16x

2:00 Sound with unknown cause, detected by hydroacoustic station. March 25 2017. Sped up 16x


Brown, P. G., et al. 2013. A 500-kiloton airburst over Chelyabinsk and an enhanced hazard from small impactors. Nature, 503(7475), 238-241.

Gavrilov, A. May 2017, Personal communication

Graham, G. May 2017, Personal communication

Harabalus, G. May 2017, personal communication

LeBras, R. May 2017, personal communication

Mialle P., May 2017, personal communication

Miksis-Old, J. May 2017, personal communication

Nielsen, P., May 2017, personal communication

Le Pichon, A., et al. 2013. The 2013 Russian fireball largest ever detected by CTBTO infrasound sensors. Geophysical Research Letters, 40(14), 3732-3737.