Chinese Geological Research Raises EMP Attack Threat

Alert Status Continues to Climb.

by EMP Editor

The specter of high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks has sparked concerns among experts and researchers worldwide. In recent developments, Chinese researchers have called for increased readiness against EMP attacks, while groundbreaking research by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the University of Colorado has shed light on the critical role of Earth’s geology in assessing the threat posed by EMP attacks.

Recognizing the EMP Threat:

EMP attacks, which involve the detonation of a high-altitude nuclear weapon to release a powerful electromagnetic pulse, have the potential to disrupt or disable electronic devices and critical infrastructure. These attacks are a cause for significant concern among military and non-proliferation experts. Recent reports and warnings have raised alarm bells about China’s alleged capability to carry out an EMP attack and the vulnerability of the United States to such an event.

Unveiling the Role of Earth’s Geology: While historical incidents like the 1962 Starfish Prime test have showcased the devastating effects of EMP attacks, current risk assessments have relied on oversimplified models that fail to consider the complex three-dimensional distribution of rocks beneath the Earth’s surface. However, groundbreaking research conducted by the USGS and the University of Colorado has shed new light on the crucial role of Earth’s geology in accurately assessing EMP threats.

The lead author of the study, USGS geophysicist Jeffrey J. Love, explains that EMP attacks generate three sequential waveforms known as E1, E2, and E3. While the high-frequency E1 pulse disrupts consumer electronics and receives considerable attention, the E2 waveform behaves similarly to lightning and does not pose significant risks to hardened electrical systems. However, it is the low-amplitude yet long-lasting E3 waveform that interacts with the solid Earth, potentially causing catastrophic damage to the electrical grid.

The study utilized existing survey data originally collected for geological exploration purposes in the eastern-midcontinental United States. Researchers obtained permission from property owners to place sensors on the ground, measuring variations in the Earth’s magnetic field and time-varying electric fields over several weeks. These measurements provided insights into surface impedance, an electromagnetic property dependent on rock conductivity.

Love and his co-authors analyzed the impact of an E3 EMP waveform generated by a high-altitude nuclear detonation with a yield of several hundred kilotons, considered a benchmark for EMP events. They also incorporated USGS research on natural magnetic-storm disturbances across the continental United States, taking into account various geological settings such as the electrically resistive metamorphic and igneous rocks in northern Minnesota or the electrically conductive sedimentary rocks in Michigan or Illinois.

The study revealed that EMP hazards had not been adequately mapped in complex geological settings. The researchers urge the USGS to analyze surface impedance across regions like the eastern mid-continent, with special attention to the eastern United States, where magnetic-storm hazards are already known to be high. They emphasize the necessity of better coordination across scientific disciplines to achieve a comprehensive EMP threat assessment approach and prioritize improvements.

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