I wonder if the global ear can 'hear' climate change

It seems to me like somebody will try to have it listen, since there are many claims of “climate change” being ubiquitous.

The Global Ear hears all: on February 15, 2013, the CTBTO’s infrasound monitoring stations detected signals made by a meteor that had entered the atmosphere and disintegrated in the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia. The CTBTO network — the only global one of its kind to detect infrasound — recorded the shock wave caused by the exploding fireball. That data helped scientists to locate the meteor, measure the energy release, its altitude and size.

Nothing escapes The Global Ear: Nuclear tests, volcanoes, earthquakes or meteors

The CTBTO has the only global network tracking radioactivity and sound waves


From earthquakes in Nepal to volcanic eruptions in Chile, from meteors crashing to Earth to the songs of migrating whales in the Indian Ocean, The Global Ear hears all.

This universal system of looking, listening and sniffing the Earth is the work of an international organization, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization or CTBTO.

The CTBTO designed and began installing its monitoring network 18 years ago to detect nuclear explosions above ground and underneath. The network is a way to guard against test ban treaty violations. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans nuclear explosions by everyone, everywhere — in the atmosphere, underwater and underground.

The network has demonstrated it can do what it was designed to do — to detect nuclear tests with great reliability. For example, on February 12, 2013, 94 of the network’s seismic monitoring stations and two of its infrasound stations detected and alerted member states to a nuclear detonation more than an hour before North Korea announced it had conducted a test.

‘The CTBTO’s International Monitoring System has found a wider mission than its creators ever foresaw: monitoring an active and evolving Earth,’ says Lassina Zerbo, Ph.D., executive secretary of CTBTO. ‘Some compare the system to a combined giant Earth stethoscope and sniffer that looks, listens, feels and sniffs for planetary irregularities.

For example, on February 15, 2013, the CTBTO’s infrasound monitoring stations detected signals made by a meteor that had entered the atmosphere and disintegrated in the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia. The CTBTO network — the only global one of its kind to detect infrasound — recorded the shock wave caused by the exploding fireball. That data helped scientists to locate the meteor, measure the energy release, its altitude and size.

Another example: the system’s atmospheric sampling tracked the invisible plume of radioactivity from the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, as it spread around the globe. It showed that radioactivity outside of Japan was below harmful levels. That knowledge helped public safety officials around the world understand what course of action to take.

‘It is the only global network which detects atmospheric radioactivity and sound waves which humans cannot hear,’ explains Zerbo.

Scientists, governments, non-governmental organizations and universities have discovered that the massive amounts of data collected by the network have a myriad of uses and benefits.

Other useful spinoffs:

  • Helping tsunami warning centres issue rapid warnings after a severe earthquake, in near real time
  • Improving meteorological models for more accurate weather forecasting
  • Giving an insight into volcanic eruptions
  • Enhancing the alerts that civil aviation authorities use to warn pilots about damaging volcanic dust in real time
  • Providing more precise information about climate change
  • Monitoring drifting icebergs in shipping lanes
  • Increasing understanding of the structure of the Earth’s inner core
  • Following the migratory habits and the effects of climate change on marine life
  • Tracking large storms

To access the data, the CTBTO has created a Virtual Data Exploitation Centre. It provides scientists and researchers from many different disciplines with data for research and enables them to publish new findings: http://www.ctbto.org/specials/vdec

Every two years the CTBTO hosts a scientific and technical conference in Vienna. This year some 1,000 scientists and researchers will gather to share their experience and knowledge and to learn from each other how to use the data. This year’s CTBT Science and Technology conference will be held from June 22-26 at the Hofburg Palace, Vienna, Austria.

Besides the CTBT Science and Technology Conferences, the CTBTO and others support workshops and technical meetings where scientists have the opportunity to meet and exchange knowledge and information.

An extensive monitoring network

The CTBTO’s global monitoring network now comprises 300 stations, some in the most remote and inaccessible areas of the Earth and sea. The network captures four types of data: seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound and radionuclide. It is about 90 percent complete. When finished, the system will have 337 stations placed globally to monitor every corner of the planet effectively.

Currently, the network collects some 15 gigabytes of data daily, which it sends in real-time to the CTBTO’s data analysis centre in Vienna, Austria. From there, a daily analysis report is sent to the CTBTO’s 183 Member States for their own use and analysis.

‘The International Monitoring System is a fantastic tool for monitoring the planet’s core, atmosphere, oceans, or environment,’ explains Raymond Jeanloz, Ph.D., professor of geophysics and astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley.

‘The CTBTO data give us a glimpse of the Earth’s deep interior -what’s happening there and how it evolved over Earth’s history,’ says Professor Miaki Ishii,Ph.D., Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University.

‘The global data are extremely valuable because they span decades, are high quality and highly calibrated,’ says Randy Bell, director of the CTBTO’s International Data Centre. ‘The data can be used to analyse local, regional or global events.’

Bell says that his primary job is to look for nuclear tests, but allowing the data to be used for science gets more experts looking at the data. ‘What may be noise to me might be a signal to someone else,’ he says.

A wealth of scientific insights

Scientists now mining the trove of CTBTO data accumulated over the past 18 years are gaining new insights into everything from the interior structure of the Earth to learning about atmospheric disturbances and the role they play in changing weather patterns.

For example, the number of seismic events recorded and analysed at the CTBTO’s International Data Centre varies depending on the amount of activity around the world. On a typical day, the centre analyses over 30,000 seismic signals to identify about 130 seismic events that meet stringent criteria. Some events are measured at only a few stations while other events are detected around the globe. Seismic and acoustic waves travel at different speeds and along different paths so analysing the various signals helps pinpoint the time, location and intensity of the recorded events.

‘Beyond nuclear monitoring, we need to understand all kinds of seismic events, which pays off in improving earthquake, fault and tectonic monitoring,’ says Bell. ‘It also has improved our understanding of the Earth itself.’

Though many countries have their own seismic monitoring systems, the CTBTO’s monitors are global, permanent, calibrated and the data are shared equally.

‘One of the key merits of the CTBTO system is that it has a set of fixed stations which provide a stable monitoring baseline,’ says Paul Richards, Ph.D., a seismologist at Columbia University. ‘That stability is useful.’

‘For Sub-Saharan Africa, the CTBTO’s seismic network is instrumental for monitoring and providing data about seismicity in the region,’ says Gerhard Graham, Ph.D., former chief operating officer of the Council for Geoscience, South Africa, and the current Coordinator of the CTBTO’s International Data Centre.

‘The waveform data are used to augment bulletins in Eastern and Southern Africa. The data greatly enhance the accuracy to locate earthquakes in the region. In 2006 in Mozambique, for example, CTBTO data were used to accurately pinpoint the epicentre of a 7.0 magnitude quake. That’s important information to help us understand seismic hazards and to know how best to design and build future sensitive structures such as schools and hospitals,’ says Graham.

The role of infrasound

The CTBTO monitors infrasound – sound waves at frequencies too low to be detected by the human ear — with 48 stations. Four more are under construction and another eight are planned.

Twenty of the CTBTO’s infrasound monitoring stations detected signals made by a meteor that had entered the atmosphere and disintegrated in the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia on February 15, 2013.

A station in Antarctica, some 15,000 kilometres away, detected the meteor’s sub-audible sound. The station detected sound waves generated by the blast twice, travelling in opposite directions, as they circumnavigated the Earth. A station in Alaska, some 6,500 kilometres away, clocked it circling the Earth three times.

Fifteen stations recorded the meteor that exploded over Sulawesi, Indonesia, in October 2009. The Chelyabinsk meteor was ten to fifty times more energetic.

The sensitivity of the CTBTO’s infrasound sensors helps scientist to gauge the number of meteorites burning in the atmosphere; many of these airbursts would otherwise go unnoticed.

Correlating infrasound and other observations of meteors is giving scientists a better understanding of the populations of Near Earth Objects and insights into the process that leads to the formation of the solar system.

The ability of the system to track atmospheric disturbances, whether volcanic eruptions, severe storms or other large scale turbulence, provides a way to improve weather forecasts and, by using nearly two decades of accumulated data, track climate change.

Elisabeth Blanc, Ph.D., Research Director at France’s Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission, heads a European project to improve long-term weather forecasting models based on temperature and wind changes in the stratosphere, using some of the CTBTO’s infrasound data.

‘Two weeks after major stratospheric warming was detected at the end of 2012, the weather in Europe changed dramatically,’ says Blanc. ‘We think this was related to stratospheric warming.

‘If our research confirms the effects of these kinds of changes, weather models could forecast ahead by several weeks or even a season. That would be very important, but we are not there yet.’

Listening underwater

With its continuous monitoring of underwater sounds, the CTBTO’s network of 11 underwater listening posts adds another dimension to the network. Located deep in some of the world’s most remote waters, these hydroacoustic stations listen to earthquakes in the Andes Mountains and around the northern Pacific. The data from the CTBTO’s hydroacoustic as well as seismic stations are used for tsunami warnings.

The data are provided in near real-time to tsunami warning centres, in particular those covering the Pacific and Indian Oceans, to help them issue more timely and precise warnings. At present, tsunami warning centres in 13 countries with a high tsunami risk receive data from around 100 CTBTO stations.

These stations also detect and track chunks of breaking icebergs and the migration of whales.

‘The data are a treasure trove for those studying marine mammals,’ says Mark Prior, Ph.D., a former CTBTO staff member now with the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research. ‘The main thing limiting use of the data is our imagination,’ he says.

Some researchers are using the data to track the migratory habits of a particular species of Blue Whale that resides in the Indian Ocean but is also seen in Alaska. Such studies help researchers estimate the densities and size of the whale population.

The system could also help determine the time and location of large aircraft impacts and explosions. In the case of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which is believed to have crashed into the ocean, Australian and U.S. researchers are still examining the data for clues of the airliner’s fate.

Detecting atmospheric radioactivity

Every day, the International Data Centre analyses over a thousand atmospheric radiation spectra from around the globe to detect minute traces of rare isotopes that might indicate nuclear activity. The ability to track radioactive particles and noble gases, especially xenon, a gas emitted in nuclear explosions, adds another dimension to the network. Forty of the 80 radioactive nuclide detecting stations will be equipped to detect noble gases, including xenon, which are difficult to contain underground after a below-the-surface nuclear test. These gases are not washed out of the atmosphere by precipitation.

‘CTBTO monitoring has detected surprising amounts of xenon,’ explains Gerhard Wotawa, Ph.D., a senior meteorologist with the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics in Austria. ‘The source is not nuclear power plants or nuclear tests as first suspected, but the production of medical radioisotopes, a discovery that has prompted a search for ways to limit the emissions and reduce the global levels of radioactivity. Only a few facilities manufacture these isotopes, but stopping them is not an option. If we stop production, we would run out of cancer treatments,’ he says.

Since the issue came to light, the CTBTO has joined forces with 10 medical isotope production companies, which have vowed to reduce emissions or bring xenon emissions to zero.

The CTBTO also tracks radioactivity which comes from the plume of active volcanoes and beryllium-7 particles which are produced naturally and move with atmospheric circulations from the stratosphere seasonally to ground level. Observing large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns is useful for understanding weather patterns like tropical storms.

Maintaining the CTBTO system

‘The nations of the world have invested about U.S. $1 billion to create The Global Ear,’ says Zerbo. ‘Every year they continue their investment, hoping it will never have to be used for its intended purpose of detecting a violation of the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Civil and scientific spinoffs show the world immediate payback and in turn increase support for the Treaty.

‘As more scientists and organizations make use of the data, the value has become ever more apparent,’ says Zerbo.


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June 21, 2015 9:18 am

Proper science. Look, then analyse. Then make predictions and look again.
But it is amazing that they can study the whole world with so few monitoring points.

… the CTBTO’s network of 11 underwater listening posts…

Only eleven?

Reply to  MCourtney
June 21, 2015 10:01 am

Have no fear, the “boomers” have been collecting data for decades.
What else have they to do ?.
You would have to be insane to imagine you could win a war against a foe, that can nuke your command and control sites from under the ocean.
So, you wanna play ?

Lee Osburn
Reply to  u.k.(us)
June 21, 2015 10:27 am

“What else have they to do ?”
Watch movies, eat steaks and lobsters and maybe fresh eggs.
What a life when they countdown to go home….

John Boles
June 21, 2015 9:20 am

I do not know how infrasound is related to “climate change”, and I doubt it is.

Bubba Cow
Reply to  John Boles
June 21, 2015 10:11 am

During the 15% of the year that Germany’s 25,000 turbines might be turning, maybe CTBTO could detect their infrasound. Perhaps they could issue early alerts for bird butchering along major global flyways …

June 21, 2015 9:26 am

The Ear of Sauron….

June 21, 2015 9:27 am

The Ear of Sauron hears all….

Reply to  beng135
June 21, 2015 9:44 am

He never heard the screams of the Ents.

Mark and two Cats
Reply to  Harold
June 21, 2015 11:17 am

Nerds 🙂

June 21, 2015 9:32 am

I’m sure they can hear the planet weeping over climate change…/sarc

June 21, 2015 9:43 am

Climate Change – “Looked for, it cannot be seen. Listened for, it cannot be heard. Touched, it cannot be felt.”

June 21, 2015 9:44 am

Well, CNN anchor Deb Feyerick thinks “global warming” causes asteroid and meteorite impacts, so why not? [/sarc]

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Bear
June 21, 2015 4:16 pm

Need a link to that, please.

June 21, 2015 10:15 am

Interesting that they did not hear MH370 crash into the ocean…

Bruce Cobb
June 21, 2015 10:16 am

The hills are alive
With the sounds of climate change…

Neil Jordan
June 21, 2015 10:20 am

Sound propagation in the sea is affected by physical attributes of temperature and thermal stratification. Sound propagation is also affected by biological attributes such as vertical migration of plankton as deep scattering layers. Have the alleged sequestered heat or other global warming effects changed sound propagation?

June 21, 2015 10:26 am

So the data have not been fiddled with by environmentalists yet then?

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Matt
June 21, 2015 10:34 am

They are too busy harping on CO2’s “effects”.

June 21, 2015 11:04 am

“Providing more precise information about climate change”
How do they do this, and how do you find the data about this?

Mark and two Cats
June 21, 2015 11:16 am

“…Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization or CTBTO.”
Why isn’t it the CNTBTO?
Is nuclear the new N-word?

michael hart
Reply to  Mark and two Cats
June 21, 2015 4:09 pm

Has been for quite some time. That’s why instruments based on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging (NMRI) became shortened to Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) for public consumption in the medical arena.

Paul Martin
Reply to  michael hart
June 22, 2015 1:50 am

Also the initials “NMR” can be misinterpreted as a totally different medical procedure if spoken quickly.

June 21, 2015 11:21 am

The global nose smells a rat.

June 21, 2015 11:40 am

I don’t even need a thermometer to tell me that it isn’t warming – we had to abandon sitting out in the garden this afternoon, in the middle of England in the middle of June. Same as always, please fetch me a cardi.

Evan Jones
Reply to  Mariwarcwm
June 21, 2015 12:12 pm

You don’t. (But I do.)

June 21, 2015 11:43 am

“It showed that radioactivity outside of Japan was below harmful levels. That knowledge helped public safety officials around the world understand what course of action to take.”
My thought would be, “no action at all”. Of course that would not appropriatly justify their existance.

K. Kilty
June 21, 2015 12:09 pm

‘Every year they continue their investment, hoping it will never have to be used for its intended purpose of detecting a violation of the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
According to the article, didn’t this happen already–North Korea?

Evan Jones
June 21, 2015 12:11 pm

Dang! I always knew there was something screaming at me.

June 21, 2015 12:40 pm

Went to the site, the data is “free” as long as you are doing a “legitimate study” and fill out the forms needed, otherwise not so much

June 21, 2015 4:10 pm

Having been engaged in contemplating nuclear war, well over 18 years ago, I shudder to think what a Chelyabinsk-like event might have precipitated back then.

June 21, 2015 4:13 pm

Just a continuation from this old technology used for military purposes . Most have read about the Russian woodpecker http://www.thelivingmoon.com/45jack_files/03files/Russian_Bases_Woodpecker_Duga_Radar_Ukraine.html
What was Cobra Mist http://www.therendleshamincident.co.uk/cobra-mist-it/

June 21, 2015 4:15 pm

Well, the plants have figured out we can’t hear them so they are doing it all in pantomime.

June 21, 2015 6:34 pm

Climate change is like pornography, you know it when you see it, or hear it, or whatever.
Actually the data is interesting, and seems it has a number of productive uses. However they look like pandering idiots when they say this.
“Following the migratory habits and the effects of climate change on marine life”
When what they can only possibly provide is this
“Follow the migratory habits of marine life”
After following the migratory habits of marine life it may be possible to tie it to changes in climate or perhaps any combination of a dozen other factors. What you don’t do is assume marine life is migrating due to AGW and then conclude all of your results are explained by AGW. Replace AGW with God, aliens, or ESP and that kind of argument magically always seems to work in your favor.
It is remarkable in a time of tremendous technological advancement across diverse practical application, climate science insists on forcing this age to be known as the age when “Science went Stupid”.

June 21, 2015 7:03 pm

Can they detect the infrasound of the wind turbine farms and the impacts with bats and birds? How about the sizzle coming from a solar mirror steam generator incinerating waterfowl?

David L. Hagen
June 21, 2015 7:52 pm

Yes Anthony – acoustic data does encode climatic temperature signals. The speed of sound varies as the square root of the absolute temperature of a gas. Scientists publish papers on Infrasound climate temperature
e.g., Ch. 15: Atmospheric Variability and Infrasound Monitoring Catherine D. de Groot-Hedlin & Douglas P. Drob

At mean sea level, the average temperature is 288.2 K, corresponding to a mean adiabatic sound speed (c) of 340.4 m/s (c2 = 401.875 m2 s−2 K−1T, where T is the temperature in degrees K. This is a very good approximation below 95 km.). As altitude increases and the atmospheric mass density decreases, the temperature decreases with an average adiabatic lapse rate of approximately 6 K/km. Increased absorption of solar UV radiation, itself a product of UV absorption, causes the temperature gradient to change sign above the tropopause. The stratopause temperature maximum occurs roughly at the altitude of maximum absorption; about 270 K at 50 km corresponding to an average adiabatic sound speed of 329.4 m/s.

Meteors provide pulses triggering atmospheric infrasound. e.g.
A study of acoustic propagation from a large bolide in the atmosphere with a dense seismic network, Michael A.H. Hedlin et al. J. Geophysical Research, Solid Earth, Volume 115, Issue B11
November 2010 DOI: 10.1029/2010JB007669

A large meteor entered the atmosphere above northeastern Oregon on 19 February 2008 at 530 PST. Several hundreds of broadband seismic stations in the U.S. Pacific Northwest recorded acoustic-to-seismic coupled signals from this event

Infrasound: Connecting the solid earth, oceans and the atmosphere
M.A.H. Hedlin et al. 2012

The average lapse rate of 6 K km−1 corresponds to a decrease in sound speed of nearly 4ms−1 per kilometer of altitude through the relation c = 20.05T1/2 ms−1, where T is the temperature in degrees Kelvin (K). The typical decrease in sound speed with altitude causes infrasound to refract upward away from Earth’s surface. However, cooling air temperatures near ground level at night and early in the day can combine with the tropospheric jet stream to give rise to short-lived tropospheric ducts

Infrasonic signature of the 2009 major sudden stratospheric warming
L. G. Evers, & P. Siegmund, Geophysical Research Letters Volume 36, Issue 23, L23808, 15 DEC 2009 DOI: 10.1029/2009GL041323

. . .The arrays in this global network consist of array elements, based on microbarometers, that are capable of measuring infrasound in the range of at least 0.02 to 4 Hz with amplitudes of mPa up to tens of pascals.
. . .microbaroms typically occur around 0.2 Hz.
. . .Infrasound propagation is mainly controlled by the effective sound speed, i.e., the propagation velocity as function of the temperature and wind along the source-receiver trajectory. At long ranges, say 200 km and more, there are two regions in the atmosphere which lead to the refraction of waves due to an increase in effective velocity. If the gradient in the effective sound profile is strong enough, waves are refracted back to the earth’s surface. This is the case in the stratosphere around 50 km altitude and the thermosphere from 100 km and upwards.

Terraflop Acoustic processing for Scientists
Voluminous data needs rapid processing. NVIDIA developed its Tegra X1 superchip that provides 1 Terraflop processing capabilities to laptops for just 10 W power. See Tegra X1 specifications.
It now enables the processing for autonomous vehicles by processing the video streams from 12 stereo cameras simultaneously in real time. The Tegra X1 should enable processing the Big Ear data. Just need some decent terabyte storage to go with it.
PS NOAA provides an online calculator for the Speed of Sound

Joel O’Bryan
June 21, 2015 10:50 pm

With all those Hiroshima bomb equivalents of forcing energy going off, I’m surprised we’re aren’t already in Nuclear Winter!
/sarc off

June 22, 2015 4:59 am

I assume then that the Global Ear can hear our poor planet crying in pain due to all the evil fracking going on.

June 22, 2015 11:21 am

The ‘Global Ear’ inspires thoughts of what bears do in the woods, and whether it makes a sound.
Can you hear me now?
“How loud, brown cow?”
(my apologies, I find myself vulnerable to silliness at times)

June 22, 2015 3:48 pm

How about those umpti-jillion Hiroshima bombs of energy being added to the earth every day by global warming? I’m sure they can hear them going off…

Mike from the Carson Valley on the cold side of the Sierra
June 23, 2015 6:01 pm

I’d prefer it to hear the high pitched whine of El Nino, or the seductive melodious voice of La Nina

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