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Neutron Monitoring as Predictor of Catastrophes


Study of the Origin and Sources of the Near-Crust Neutron Flux Variations to Predict Convulsions of Nature and Man-made Catastrophes

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-SEM/Seismic Monitoring/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
VNIIEF, Russia, N. Novgorod reg., Sarov

Supporting institutes

  • Moscow State University / Institute of Nuclear Physics, Russia, Moscow\nKamchatka R&D Methodological Seismology Survey Party of the Geophysical Service of Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia, Kamchatka reg., Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky


  • Waseda University / Advanced Research Institute for Science and Engineering, Japan, Tokyo\nIstituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) - sez. Perugia, Italy, Perugia\nTohoku University, Japan, Sendai

Project summary

Earthquakes belong to the most unexpected and, hence, most disastrous convulsions of nature on the Earth. The peril of the disaster is defined by not only enormous human and material losses. The unexpectedness and mightiness of the devastations and victims involved leave men with profound mental shock and sense of helplessness.

The attempts to predict a possible earthquake started long ago and persist nowadays [1]. A great deal of the prediction methods have been proposed, which are too numerous to mere list them here. The include observations of animal behavior, efforts of extrasensory inpiduals, various techniques of mathematical and physical statistics, seismic wave monitoring at many seismic stations all over the globe, observations of the Sun and the Moon, tracing the water levels of crust rockholes and rates of gas outflow from them.

The advent of space technologies has permitted intensive researches into the state of the interplanetary space, the magnetosphere, the Earth radiation belts and the ionosphere, the active processes on the Sun, the state of the lithosphere, and the interaction of the lithosphere and atmosphere with the near-Earth space via the ionosphere and magnetosphere. The electromagnetic radiation from the crust has been extensively studied on satellites. All this has opened up new prospects to every success in predicting earthquakes.

In fact, the last years have seen the discovery of some qualitative relationships of the active flare processes in the solar atmosphere, disturbances in solar wind plasma, dynamics of the magnetosphere, radiation belts, and ionosphere with the subsequent earthquakes. The development of the earthquake prediction techniques has stopped at that point, however. So, we have not yet have any practical and reliable method for predicting earthquakes on any time scale (long-, medium-, or short-term).

On 7 October 1999, the Moscow State University and the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics convened a round-table discussion with participation of dozens of experts in mathematics, physics, chemistry, geophysics, space physics, seismology, radio physics, astronomy, space technologies, etc. They attempted development of a novel approach to earthquake prediction basing on the latest scientific advances. The vivid discussion and the analysis of extensive scientific information have permitted formulation of the novel concept for tackling predictions of earthquakes.

It has been commonly recognized, in particular, that, at present, the observations of the time variations of the flux of thermal and slow neutrons near the Earth’s crust are most validated physically, realizable technologically, and expedient practically for the purposes of short-term (tens of hours or a few days) predictions of earthquakes.

The feasibility of the above approach is corroborated by the results obtained in the Tien Shan mountains. In particular, a detector employed by nuclear geophysics was used from March 1996 to May 1998 at Medeo Station, not far from Alma-Ata, to simultaneously record the neutron flux and the seismic waves generated by earthquakes of different classes in an adit at a 100-m.w.e. depth. The epicenters of the earthquakes were found to be at distances of 120-900 km from the measurement point.

With a 12.5 count/hour mean-hourly counting rate, the actual counting rate increased by factor 2.0-3.5 a day before an earthquake. Besides, the experiment indicated a relation between the neutron flux increase level and the earthquake class. Prediction of an earthquake is also exemplified by nearly an order increase in the neutron flux recorded by the DAIZA instrument (the detector of nuclear radiation of the Earth’s crust and atmosphere) in Moscow. Within a few recent years, the instrument recorded some 10 events of neutron flux increase 20 hours before earthquakes, on the average. The earthquakes occurred somewhere in Turkey, Greece, North Caucasus, Afghanistan, and Balkans.

From the above it follows that the observations of the variations in the thermal and slow neutron flux near the Earth surface constitute a qualitatively novel method for analyzing the ecological status of environment and, which is more important, the method makes it possible to predict changes in the ecological state of environment. The changes may both occur naturally and be man-made. The natural changes may be due to earthquakes, mudflows, landslides, and volcan activation. The man-made changes may be due to construction of roads, oil-pipe lines and gas mains, deforestation, construction of channels, opencast, diggings, etc.

This Project is aimed at developing methods for studying the neutron emission from the Earth surface, at making high-precision measurements of the neutron fluxes and the associate -rays at different points on the Earth surface, at studying the feasible mechanisms that define the neutron exhalation of the Earth, at compiling a database of the earlier and fresh experimental results to support the nuclear-physics monitoring of environment, and at the monitoring-based predicting convulsions of nature and man-made catastrophes.


1. G.A.Sobolev. Principles of Earthquake Prediction. Nauka, Moscow, 1993.

2. Kuzhevskij B.M.


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