August 21, 2021

SMU’s Brian Stump and his team will use the grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to continue their work of international nuclear disarmament and peacekeeping significance.

In 2008, when North Texas began experiencing strange underground rumblings in what historically has been a stable region of the country, curious reporters reached out to seismic detective Brian Stump, Albritton Professor of Earth Sciences at SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, to explain what was going on.

Once again, Stump is the center of attention as he and his team have been named the recipients of the largest research grant in SMU history. With the funding, the researchers will use a combination of acoustic and seismic waves to better distinguish between human-made events, such as nuclear tests, and nature’s bumps and jolts, like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

SMU’s seismo-acoustic analysis team has been doing this kind of work for over a quarter century. The team boasts other noteworthy experts in the field, including Stephen Arrowsmith, associate professor and Hamilton Chair in Earth Sciences; Chris Hayward, senior scientist in the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences; and Paul Golden, director of the geophysics laboratory in earth sciences.

Using data from two seismic arrays in the Big Bend area of Texas and in Mina, Nevada, SMU scientists analyze data resulting from the acoustic and seismic waves that occur when nuclear weapons are detonated anywhere in the world. These stations, both in extremely quiet areas, record signals accompanying earthquakes and sometimes volcanic eruptions as well. The new funding allows this work to continue.

“In the cases of earthquakes and volcanoes, the waves provide new insight into the physical processes that accompany these natural events,” said Stump. “For human-induced events, the waves similarly allow us to locate the sources as well as the processes that accompany the events. An example is mining explosions at the Earth’s surface, which generate both seismic and infrasound signals that can be used to identify these activities.”

Award-winning SMU researcher BrianStump

SMU seismologist Brian Stump and his team were awarded the largest research grant in SMU’s history, $18 million, for their work on monitoring the Earth’s acoustic and seismic waves.