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Greek Scientist Monitors Ocean for Signs of Nuclear Blasts

Greek Scientist
Dr. George Haralabus, a scientist from Greece who works monitoring the Pacific Ocean for signs of nuclear blasts which violate International nuclear proliferation treaties. Credit: AMNA

A Greek scientist is among a select group of researchers who constantly monitor the Pacific Ocean for signs of nuclear bomb tests which may be carried out in violation of the international nuclear test ban treaty.

Originally from the city of Drama, Dr. George Haralabus listens for sounds echoing across the world’s largest ocean that indicate that nuclear blasts have taken place and they subsequently notify the international community that such events have taken place.

Fulfilling the purpose of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), founded in Vienna as the body responsible for fulfilling the stipulations of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), he and his colleagues make sure that all violations are reported and investigated immediately.

Greek scientist is hydroacoustic project manager for the International Monitoring System

But not only that – the scientists who work alongside him at the 337 stations of the International Monitoring System (IMS) also pick up and analyze sounds emanating from earthquakes far under the ocean floor, notifying their headquarters in Vienna in real time that events are taking place and action needs to be taken.

According to a report from AMNA, Dr. Haralabus is responsible for the management of hydroacoustics used in the IMS. Their system in effect constitutes an “acoustic shield” to all of the world’s the oceans against illegal nuclear testing, while providing pertinent information on geological forces that also may threaten human life around the planet.

Haralabus attended the School of Sciences of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, where he graduated with Honors in 1987. He then began his doctoral studies at Duke University in North Carolina, in the field of underwater acoustics, earning his PhD in 1993.

He then worked at the SACLANTCEN (CMRE)-NATO Underwater Research Center in La Spezia, Italy, as a research project manager. He moved to Vienna in 2009 as a hydroacoustic project manager for the IMS.

The Greek scientist recently returned to his hometown to receive an award from CYCLOPS Amke, a non-profit organization founded by businessman Aris Theodoridis.

Nuclear testing, volcano eruptions, earthquakes in the crosshairs of the IMS

The Greek scientist related to the assembly there the many benefits of the mission of the IMS and the important part it plays in helping fight the battle of nuclear proliferation under the direction of Dr. Robert Floyd.

Haralabus explained that he has worked at the hydroacoustic stations based on the remote Robinson Crusoe island in the Pacific Ocean, about 600 km (373 miles) off the coast of Chile, and on France’s Crozet Islands in the southern Indian Ocean as well. He stated in his remarks to the guests that he firmly believes the world is now safer than it was in the past with the comprehensive nuclear monitoring that is now in place.

He states that between the years 1945 and 1996, an incredible total of 2,054 nuclear tests were carried out in the oceans of the world.

However, just since the year 1996, three countries — India, Pakistan and North Korea — have broken the moratorium. Altogether these nations have carried out less than a dozen nuclear tests, with India and Pakistan  doing so in 1998 and North Korea carrying out tests in 2006, 2009, 2013, 2016, and 2017.

All of these were picked up and recorded by the IMS, which relayed the information directly to the CTBTO. Importantly, none of these nations were signatories to the international nuclear test ban treaty.

Haralabus explained to AMNA that the system used by the IMS to monitor the oceans of the world process the seismic signals they receive, analyze infrasound signals in the atmosphere,  detect radioactive particles and gases, and detect and pinpoint the source of of underwater acoustic signals (hydroacoustics).

Scientist “Could never have imagined” working on Pacific’s Robinson Crusoe Island

But the scientists don’t just process sonic signals made by nuclear blasts and earthquakes — they also hear the sounds made by volcanoes, meteorites as they streak through  the atmosphere, noises made by icebergs — and even the calls of  marine mammals, including whales.

“Data from such phenomena,” Haralabus stated in his remarks, “are a treasure for the scientific community, to which they are offered for free through a platform called the virtual Data Exploitation Center – vDEC. In addition, the Organization provides near real-time seismological and hydroacoustic data to 18 tsunami warning centres in 17countries.”

The listening stations that are part of the IMS use sonic receivers called hydrophones, incredibly sophisticated microphones which can record acoustic signals across vast distances in the world’s oceans.

All this, he said, is made possible because of a phenomenon called the “deep sound channel,” which he explains “is an invisible horizontal underwater layer in which sound is transmitted at the lowest speed.

“When underwater acoustic waves from a source enter this sound channel, they can be transmitted over enormous distances because within this channel they have the minimum sound energy damping. At a lesser depth, the speed of the acoustic signal increases mainly due to an increase in temperature, while in deeper ocean layers the speed increases due to hydrostatic pressure.

“This means that the depth at which the axis of the sound channel is located is not constant. In warmer climates it is found at depths around 1,000 meters while as we move towards the poles, it shifts towards the surface of the oceans.”

All this high-level research in some of the most remote and exotic corners of the world was the last thing Haralabus dared to dream of as a boy growing up in Greece.

“As a child,” he told the audience after receiving the CYCLOPS Award, “I could never have imagined that I would one day go on a professional mission to Robinson Crusoe Island, with which the only relationship we had in our home in Drama was Daniel Dafoe’s novel by the same name.”

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