Foreign Policy Blogs

GPS – The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Image by Jihye Park, Ohio State University

Beware CTBT Cheaters!  We have a Garmin and we know how to use it!

In addition to finding your way home and locating enemy targets, researchers at The Ohio State University have found another use for our little Garmin: detecting clandestine nuclear tests.

The Global Security Newswire reports today on the work of Ralph Von Frese, Jihye Park and others, which has been unveiled at a meeting of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in Vienna this week (CTBT- you know, the treaty the Senate can’t seem to get ratified?).  Park, a doctoral student in geodetic science, notes that using GPS for such a purpose is a complement to other tools for detecting clandestine tests, and can also confirm that such a test has actually occurred because it is sensitive to atmospheric disturbances.  To quote her faculty advisor, Dorota Grejner-Brzezinska,

“GPS signals must pass from transmitters on satellites high above the planet down to ground-based receivers.  Air molecules – more specifically, the electrons and other charged particles in the ionosphere – interfere with the signal, generating position error. Part of our research concerns how to compensate for that vulnerability and make GPS work better.  They found a way to take that vulnerability and turn it into something useful.”

Take THAT Senator Kyl!



Jodi Lieberman
Jodi Lieberman

Jodi Lieberman is a veteran of the arms control, nonproliferation, nuclear terrorism and nuclear safety trenches, having worked at the Departments of State, Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She has also served in an advisory capacity and as professional staff for several members of Congress in both the House and Senate as well as the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Jodi currently spends her time advocating for science issues and funding as the Senior Government Affairs Specialist at the American Physical Society. The views expressed in her posts are her views based on her professional experience but in way should be construed to represent those of her employer.