The Ramapo Fault and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Living on the Fault Line
A major earthquake isn’t likely here, but if it comes, watch out.
Posted June 15, 2010 by Wayne J. Guglielmo
This chart shows the location of the Ramapo Fault System, the longest and one of the oldest systems of cracks in the earth’s crust in the Northeast. It also shows the location of all earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater in New Jersey during the last 50 years. The circle in blue indicates the largest known Jersey quake.
The couple checked with Burns’s parents, who live in nearby Basking Ridge, and they, too, had heard and felt something, which they thought might have been an earthquake. A call by Burns some 20 minutes later to the Bernardsville Police Department—one of many curious and occasionally panicky inquiries that Sunday morning, according to the officer in charge, Sergeant John Remian—confirmed their suspicion: A magnitude 2.6 earthquake, its epicenter in Peapack/Gladstone, about seven miles from Bernardsville, had hit the area. A smaller aftershock followed about two and a half hours later.
After this year’s epic earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and China, the 2.6 quake and aftershock that shook parts of New Jersey in February may seem minor league, even to the Somerset County residents who experienced them. On the exponential Richter Scale, a magnitude 7.0 quake like the one that hit Haiti in January is almost 4 million times stronger than a quake of 2.6 magnitude. But comparisons of magnitude don’t tell the whole story.
Northern New Jersey straddles the Ramapo Fault, a significant ancient crack in the earth’s crust. The longest fault in the Northeast, it begins in Pennsylvania and moves into New Jersey, trending northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before terminating in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant. And though scientists dispute how active this roughly 200 million-year-old fault really is, many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. The fault line is visible at ground level and likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.
During the past 230 years or so, New Jersey has been at the epicenter of nearly 170 earthquakes, according to data compiled by the New Jersey Geological Survey, part of the United States Department of Environmental Protection. The largest known quake struck in 1783, somewhere west of New York City, perhaps in Sussex County. It’s typically listed as 5.3 in magnitude, though that’s an estimate by seismologists who are quick to point out that the concept of magnitude—measuring the relative size of an earthquake—was not introduced until 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg. Still, for quakes prior to that, scientists are not just guessing.
“We can figure out the damage at the time by going back to old records and newspaper accounts,” says Won-Young Kim, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, directly across the New Jersey border. “Once the amount and extent of contemporary damage has been established,” Kim says, “we’re then able to gauge the pattern of ground shaking or intensity of the event—and from there extrapolate its probable magnitude.”
Other earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher have been felt in New Jersey, although their epicenters laying near New York City. One—which took place in 1737 and was said to have been felt as far north as Boston and as far south as northern Delaware—was probably in the 5 to 5.5 range. In 1884, an earthquake of similar magnitude occurred off New York’s Rockaway Beach. This well-documented event pulled houses off their foundations and caused steeples to topple as far west as Rahway. The shock wave, scientists believe, was felt over 70,000 square miles, from Vermont to Maryland.
Among the largest sub-5 magnitude earthquakes with epicenters in New Jersey, two (a 3.8 and a 4.0) took place on the same day in 1938 in the Lakehurst area in Ocean County. On August 26, 2003, a 3.5 magnitude quake shook the Frenchtown/Milford area in Hunterdon County. On February 3 of last year, a 3.0 magnitude quake occurred in the Morris County town of Mendham. “A lot of people felt this one because of the intense shaking, although the area of intensity wasn’t very wide,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim, who visited the site after the event.
After examining the known historical and geological record, Kim and other seismologists have found no clear evidence that an earthquake of greater than 5.3 to 5.5 magnitude has taken place in this area going back to 1737. This doesn’t mean, of course, that one did not take place in the more remote past or that one will not occur in the future; it simply means that a very large quake is less likely to occur here than in other places in the east where the seismic hazard is greater, including areas in South Carolina and northeastern New York State.
But no area on the East Coast is as densely populated or as heavily built-up as parts of New Jersey and its neighbors. For this reason, scientists refer to the Greater New York City-Philadelphia area, which includes New Jersey’s biggest cities, as one of “low earthquake hazard but high vulnerability.” Put simply, the Big One isn’t likely here—but if it comes, especially in certain locations, watch out.
Given this low-hazard, high-vulnerability scenario, how far along are scientists in their efforts to predict larger magnitude earthquakes in the New Jersey area? The answer is complex, complicated by the state’s geographical position, its unique geological history, the state of seismology itself, and the continuing debate over the exact nature and activity of the Ramapo Fault.
Over millions of years, New Jersey developed four distinct physiographic provinces or regions, which divide the state into a series of diagonal slices, each with its own terrain, rock type, and geological landforms.
The northernmost slice is the Valley and Ridge, comprising major portions of Sussex and Warren counties. The southernmost slice is the Coastal Plain, a huge expanse that covers some three-fifths of the state, including all of the Shore counties. Dividing the rest of the state are the Highlands, an area for the most part of solid but brittle rock right below the Valley and Ridge, and the lower lands of the Piedmont, which occupy all of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, most of Bergen, Hunterdon, and Somerset, and parts of Middlesex, Morris, and Passaic.
For earthquake monitors and scientists, the formation of these last two provinces—the Highlands and the Piedmont—are of special interest. To understand why, consider that prior to the appearance of the Atlantic Ocean, today’s Africa was snuggled cozily up against North America and surrounded by a single enormous ocean. “At that point, you could have had exits off the New Jersey Turnpike for Morocco,” says Alexander Gates, professor of geology and chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers-Newark.
Under the pressure of circulating material within the Earth’s super-hot middle layer, or mantle, what was once a single continent—one that is thought to have included today’s other continents as well—began to stretch and eventually break, producing numerous cracks or faults and ultimately separating to form what became the Atlantic Ocean. In our area, the longest and most active of these many cracks was the Ramapo Fault, which, through a process known as normal faulting, caused one side of the earth’s crust to slip lower—the Piedmont—relative to the other side—the Highlands. “All this occurred about 225 million years ago,” says Gates. “Back then, you were talking about thousands of feet between the Highlands and the Piedmont and a very active Ramapo Fault.”
The Earth’s crust, which is 20 to 25 miles thick, is not a single, solid shell, but is broken into seven vast tectonic plates, which drift atop the soft, underlying mantle. Although the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault neatly divides two of New Jersey’s four physiographic provinces, it does not form a so-called plate boundary, as does California’s infamous San Andreas Fault. As many Californians know all too well, this giant fault forms the boundary between two plates—to the west, the Pacific Plate, and to the east, the North American Plate; these rub up against each other, producing huge stresses and a regularly repeating pattern of larger earthquakes.
The Ramapo Fault sits on the North American Plate, which extends past the East Coast to the middle of the Atlantic, where it meets the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range in constant flux. The consequences of this intraplate setting are huge: First, as Gates points out, “The predictability of bigger earthquakes on…[such] settings is exceedingly poor, because they don’t occur very often.” Second, the intraplate setting makes it more difficult to link our earthquakes to a major cause or fault, as monitors in California can often do.
This second bit of uncertainty is especially troubling for some people, including some in the media who want a neat story. To get around it, they ignore the differences between plate settings and link all of New Jersey’s earthquakes, either directly or implicitly, to the Ramapo Fault. In effect, such people want the Ramapo Fault “to look like the San Andreas Fault,” says Gates. “They want to be able to point to one big fault that’s causing all of our earthquakes.”
Gates does not think that’s the case, and he has been working with colleagues for a number of years to prove it. “What we have found is that there are smaller faults that generally cut from east to west across the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault,” he explains. “These much smaller faults are all over the place, and they’re actually the ones that are the active faults in the area.”
But what mechanisms are responsible for the formation of these apparently active auxiliary faults? One such mechanism, say scientists, is the westward pressure the Atlantic Ocean exerts on the North American Plate, which for the most part resists any movement. “I think we are in an equilibrium state most of the time,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim.
Still, that continuous pressure on the plate we sit on causes stress, and when that stress builds up sufficiently, the earth’s crust has a tendency to break around any weak zones. In our area, the major weak zone is the Ramapo Fault—“an ancient zone of weakness,” as Kim calls it. That zone of weakness exacerbates the formation of auxiliary faults, and thereby the series of minor earthquakes the state has experienced over the years.
All this presupposes, of course, that any intraplate stress in this area will continue to be released gradually, in a series of relatively minor earthquakes or releases of energy. But what if that were not the case? What if the stress continued to build up, and the release of large amounts of energy came all at once? In crude terms, that’s part of the story behind the giant earthquakes that rocked what is now New Madrid, Missouri, between 1811 and 1812. Although estimates of their magnitude have been revised downward in recent years to less than magnitude 8, these earthquakes are generally regarded as among the largest intraplate events to have occurred in the continental United States.
For a number of reasons—including the relatively low odds that the kind of stored energy that unleashed the New Madrid events could ever build up here—earthquakes of plus-6 magnitude are probably not in our future. Still, says Kim, even a magnitude 6 earthquake in certain areas of the state could do considerable damage, especially if its intensity or ground shaking was of sufficient strength. In a state as geologically diverse and densely populated as New Jersey, this is a crucial wild card.
Part of the job of the experts at the New Jersey Geological Survey is to assess the seismic hazards in different parts of the state. To do this, they use a computer-simulation model developed under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as HAZUS, for Hazards US. To assess the amount of ground shaking likely to occur in a given county during events ranging in magnitude from 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale, NJGS scientists enter three features of a county’s surface geology into their computer model. Two of these features relate to the tendency of soil in a given area to lose strength, liquefy, or slide downhill when shaken. The third and most crucial feature has to do with the depth and density of the soil itself and the type of bedrock lying below it; this is a key component in determining a region’s susceptibility to ground shaking and, therefore, in estimating the  amount of building and structural damage that’s likely to occur in that region. Estimates for the various counties—nine to date have been studied—are sent to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, which provided partial funding for the project.
To appreciate why this element of ground geology is so crucial to earthquake modelers, consider the following: An earthquake’s intensity—which is measured on something called the Modified Mercalli Scale—is related to a number of factors. The amount of energy released or the magnitude of an event is clearly a big factor. But two earthquakes of the same magnitude can have very different levels of intensity; in fact, it’s quite possible for a lower magnitude event to generate more ground shaking than a higher magnitude one.
In addition to magnitude, other factors that affect intensity are the distance of the observer or structure from the epicenter, where intensity is the greatest; the depth beneath the surface of the initial  rupture, with shallower ruptures producing more ground shaking than deeper ones; and, most significantly, the ground geology or material that the shock wave generated by the earthquake must pass through.
As a rule, softer materials like sand and gravel shake much more intensely than harder materials, because the softer materials are comparatively inefficient energy conductors, so whatever energy is released by the quake tends to be trapped, dispersing much more slowly. (Think of a bowl of Jell-O on a table that’s shaking.)
In contrast, harder materials, like the solid rock found widely in the Highlands, are brittle and break under pressure, but conduct energy well, so that even big shock waves disperse much more rapidly through them, thereby weakening the amount of ground shaking. “If you’ve read any stories about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, you know the most intense damage was in those flat, low areas by the Bay, where the soil is soft, and not in the hilly, rocky areas above,” says Karl Muessig, state geologist and NJGS head.
The map that accompanies the online version of the NJGS’s Earthquake Loss Estimation Study divides the state’s surface geology into five seismic soil classes, ranging from Class A, or hard rock, to Class E, or soft soil (
Although the weakest soils are scattered throughout the state, including the Highlands, which besides harder rock also contains areas of glacial lakes, clays, and wetlands, they are most evident in the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. “The largest expanses of them are in coastal areas where you have salt marshes or large glacial lakes, as in parts of the Passaic River basin,” says Scott Stanford, a research scientist with NJGS and lead author of the estimate. Some of the very weakest soils, Stanford adds, are in areas of filled marshland, including places along the Hudson waterfront, around Newark Bay and the Meadowlands, and along the Arthur Kill.
Faults in these areas—and in the coastal plain generally—are far below the ground, perhaps several hundred to a thousand feet down, making identification difficult. “There are numerous faults upon which you might get earthquake movement that we can’t see, because they’re covered by younger sediments,” Stanford says.
This combination of hidden faults and weak soils worries scientists, who are all too aware that parts of the coastal plain and Piedmont are among the most densely populated and developed areas in the state. (The HAZUS computer model also has a “built environment” component, which summarizes, among other things, types of buildings in a given area.) For this reason, such areas would be in the most jeopardy in the event of a large earthquake.
“Any vulnerable structure on these weak soils would have a higher failure hazard,” Stanford says. And the scary truth is that many structures in New Jersey’s largest cities, not to mention New York City, would be vulnerable, since they’re older and built before anyone gave much thought to earthquake-related engineering and construction codes.
For example, in the study’s loss estimate for Essex County, which includes Newark, the state’s largest city, a magnitude 6 event would result in damage to 81,600 buildings, including almost 10,000 extensively or completely; 36,000 people either displaced from their homes or forced to seek short-term shelter; almost $9 million in economic losses from property damage and business interruption; and close to 3,300 injuries and 50 fatalities. (The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation has conducted a similar assessment for New York City, at
All of this suggests the central irony of New Jersey geology: The upland areas that are most prone to earthquakes—the counties in or around the Ramapo Fault, which has spawned a network of splays, or  auxiliary faults—are much less densely populated and sit, for the most part, on good bedrock. These areas are not invulnerable, certainly, but, by almost all measures, they would not sustain very severe damage, even in the event of a higher magnitude earthquake. The same can’t be said for other parts of the state, where the earthquake hazard is lower but the vulnerability far greater. Here, the best we can do is to prepare—both in terms of better building codes and a constantly improving emergency response.
Meanwhile, scientists like Rutgers’s Gates struggle to understand the Earth’s quirky seismic timetable: “The big thing with earthquakes is that you can commonly predict where they are going to occur,” Gates says. “When they’re going to come, well, we’re nowhere near being able to figure that out.”
Planning for the Big One
For the men and women of the state police who manage and support the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the response to some events, like hurricanes, can be marshalled in advance. But an earthquake is what responders call a no-notice event.
In New Jersey, even minor earthquakes—like the one that shook parts of Somerset County in February—attract the notice of local, county, and OEM officials, who continuously monitor events around the state from their Regional Operations and Intelligence Center (The ROIC) in West Trenton, a multimillion dollar command-and-control facility that has been built to withstand 125 mph winds and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake. In the event of a very large earthquake, during which local and county resources are apt to become quickly overwhelmed, command and control authority would almost instantly pass to West Trenton.
Here, officials from the state police, representatives of a galaxy of other state agencies, and a variety of communications and other experts would assemble in the cavernous and ultra-high tech Emergency Operations Center to oversee the state’s response. “A high-level earthquake would definitely cause the governor to declare a state of emergency,” says OEM public information officer Nicholas J. Morici. “And once that takes place, our emergency operations plan would be put in motion.”
Emergency officials have modeled that plan—one that can be adapted to any no-notice event, including a terrorist attack—on response methodologies developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At its core is a series of seventeen emergency support functions, ranging from transportation to firefighting, debris removal, search and rescue, public health, and medical services. A high-magnitude event would likely activate all of these functions, says Morici, along with the human and physical resources needed to carry them out—cranes and heavy trucks for debris removal, fire trucks and teams for firefighting, doctors and EMTs for medical services, buses and personnel carriers for transportation, and so on.
This is where an expert like Tom Rafferty comes in. Rafferty is a Geographic Information Systems Specialist attached to the OEM. His job during an emergency is to keep track electronically of which resources are where in the state, so they can be deployed quickly to where they are needed. “We have a massive database called the Resource Directory Database in which we have geolocated municipal, county, and state assets to a very detailed map of New Jersey,” Rafferty says. “That way, if there is an emergency like an earthquake going on in one area, the emergency managers can quickly say to me, for instance, ‘We have major debris and damage on this spot of the map. Show us the location of the nearest heavy hauler. Show us the next closest location,’ and so on.”
A very large quake, Rafferty says, “could overwhelm resources that we have as a state.” In that event, OEM has the authority to reach out to FEMA for additional resources and assistance. It can also call upon the private sector—the Resource Directory has been expanded to include non-government assets—and to a network of volunteers. “No one has ever said, ‘We don’t want to help,’” Rafferty says. New Jersey officials can also request assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement among the states to help each other in times of extreme crisis.
“You always plan for the worst,” Rafferty says, “and that way when the worst doesn’t happen, you feel you can handle it if and when it does.”
Contributing editor Wayne J. Guglielmo lives in Mahwah, near the Ramapo Fault.

Russia Prepares for Nuclear War in Europe

A radar vehicle of the S-400 Triumph surface-to-air missile system drives along a road on the way to Belarus to join military drills, in Khabarovsk region, Russia, in this still image taken from video released January 21, 2022. Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS


Russia has sent some 30,000 combat troops, modern weapons to Belarus, NATO says

, Feb 3 (Reuters) – Russia has been moving some 30,000 combat troops and modern weapons to Belarus over the last days, Moscow’s biggest military deployment to the country since the end of the Cold War, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg attends a joint news conference with North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski in Brussels, Belgium February 3, 2022. REUTERS/Johanna Geron
A radar vehicle of the S-400 Triumph surface-to-air missile system drives along a road on the way to Belarus to join military drills, in Khabarovsk region, Russia, in this still image taken from video released January 21, 2022. Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg attends a joint news conference with North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski in Brussels, Belgium February 3, 2022. REUTERS/Johanna GeronRead More

The deployment included Speznaz special operations forces, SU-35 fighter jets, dual capable Iskander missiles and S-400 air defence systems, he told reporters in Brussels.

“All this will be combined with Russia’s annual nuclear forces exercise,” he added. The term dual capable, which Stoltenberg used for the Iskander missiles, is used to describe weapons meant for conventional and nuclear warfare.

RegisterReporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Benoit Van Overstraeten

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Iran, Russia, China Hold Joint Naval Drill Against the US

An Iranian military ship is featured at Russia's annual Navy Day parade in St. Petersburg in July.
An Iranian military ship is featured at Russia’s annual Navy Day parade in St. Petersburg in July.

Iran, Russia, China Hold Joint Naval Drill Amid Growing Ties

Iran, Russia, and China are holding their third joint naval drill in the northern Indian Ocean, amid speculation that the three countries are teaming up in the face of growing regional tensions with the United States.

Russian vessels, together with the Chinese and Iranian navies, performed “joint tactical maneuvering and practiced artillery fire at a naval target as well as search-and-rescue missions at sea,” the Russian Defense Ministry said on January 21, adding that the sides also “practiced inspection and liberation of a ship that was supposedly captured by pirates.”

Eleven Iranian vessels were joined by three Russian ships and two Chinese vessels, Iranian Rear Admiral Mostafa Tajoldini earlier told state TV. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) are also participating in the exercises, with smaller ships and helicopters.

Since coming to office in June 2021, Iran’s hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi has pursued a policy to deepen ties with both Moscow and Beijing. Russia, Iran, and China are subject to Western sanctions imposed over various issues, including Russia’s threats on Ukraine’s territorial integrity, human rights abuses in China, and Iran’s nuclear program.

“Improving bilateral relations between Tehran and Moscow will enhance security for the region and the international arena,” Raisi said upon returning from a visit to Russia on January 21, according to the government news IRNA.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian paid a visit to China last week during which it was announced that Beijing and Tehran have launched a 25-year cooperation deal aimed at bolstering economic and political ties.SEE ALSO:Iran, China Launch Cooperation Pact, As Beijing Slams U.S. Sanctions On Tehran

In September, Iran’s bid to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was approved by the seven current members of the security body led by Beijing and Moscow. The country will formally join the grouping after the technical and legal process concludes, which is expected to take up to two years.

Visits to Iran by Russian and Chinese naval representatives have increased in recent years.

Iran has been holding regular military drills in recent months, as attempts to revive its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers flounder.

Tensions between Washington and Beijing over the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, a crackdown on pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong, and the situation around Taiwan have also been growing.

Moscow is also at loggerheads with the United States and its allies over Ukraine. Moscow has amassed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s borders in recent weeks, triggering fears that Russia could be about to invade its.

According to Iranian state TV, the third joint naval drill involving Iran, Russia, and China since 2019 will cover some 17,000 square kilometers and aims at boosting marine security.

The Chinese Navy has sent a missile destroyer, a supply ship, shipborne helicopters, and 40 marines to participate in the drills, China’s Defense Ministry said on January 20.

The Pacific Fleet said on January 18 that a Russian naval group including a missile cruiser, a large anti-submarine warfare ship, and a large sea tanker had anchored off Iran’s port of Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman ahead of the drills.

Russia on January 20 announced sweeping naval maneuvers in multiple areas involving the bulk of its naval potential — over 140 warships and more than 60 aircraft — to last through February.

The exercises will be in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, the northeastern Atlantic, and the Pacific Ocean, in addition to the joint exercise with Iran in the Indian Ocean.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and TASS

Iran Continues to Nuke Up: Daniel 7

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, has demanded the removal of all American sanctions in exchange for the Islamic Republic’s return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, has demanded the removal of all American sanctions in exchange for the Islamic Republic’s return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. – REUTERS

OPINION: Iran continues to expand its nuclear program

Contributed | Posted: 23 hours ago | Updated: 23 hours ago | 4 Min Read

Iran is an expansionist state, striving for hegemony over the Middle East. It already has proxies fighting on its behalf in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and it threatens Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

It also wants to destroy Israel. It makes no secret of this and has said so countless times, and it may yet follow through should it acquire the nuclear capability to do so.

Iran and six nations including the U.S. are in the midst of an eighth round of negotiations aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018, which Tehran responded to with escalating violations of the multilateral accord.

U.S. President Joe Biden is seeking a return to compliance with the agreement but has been met by a new, more hardline Iranian president in Ebrahim Raisi, who has demanded the removal of all American sanctions in exchange for the Islamic Republic’s return to the deal.

There was little movement in January. Iran is seeking guarantees that the U.S. will not repeat Trump’s withdrawal from the deal. But Washington cannot offer a legally binding treaty since the Senate would never agree to one, Ned Price, a U.S. State Department spokesperson, warned. “There is no such thing as a guarantee in diplomacy and international affairs. We can speak for this administration, but this administration has been very clear that we are prepared to return to full compliance with the JCPOA and to stay in full compliance with the JCPOA as long as Iran does the same.”

White House National Security Council co-ordinator for the Middle East Brett McGurk added that “We’re in the ballpark of a possible deal. But again, I’m not going to put odds on this.” But, he added, there’s also “a very real chance that these talks could collapse very soon.”

Talks to restore the Iran nuclear deal are entering their final stage, as negotiators head back to their capitals to receive political guidance on what moves to take in the coming days. Western diplomats are facing a self-imposed mid-February deadline to try and revive the 2015 agreement.

Those close to the talks say they think there can be an agreement, but that from a western perspective it will possibly be so limited in scope it is will be seen as temporary. If so, as Enrique Mora, the chief European Union negotiator has said, it will not be for lack of trying.

The Biden White House may now content itself with massive sanctions relief in exchange for a halt to 60 per cent uranium enrichment — bomb-grade is 90 per cent. Biden may well allow Iran to stockpile 20 per cent enriched uranium, which enables the production of Uranium-235 quickly. Twenty per cent was prohibited under the JCPOA.

So Iran would become a nuclear threshold state, which means it could produce a nuclear weapon whenever it chooses to. The so-called “breakout” time for Iran to produce enough fuel for a bomb has plummeted, from more than a year to as little as three weeks. And then what?

Iran is now also one of the world’s top missile producers. Its arsenal is the largest and most diverse in the Middle East. The Islamic Republic has thousands of ballistic missiles, according to U.S. intelligence assessments. They can reach as far as 2,100 kilometres in any direction.

Tehran has shown no willingness to barter over its missiles as it has with its nuclear program. Even without nuclear weapons, Iran is wreaking havoc across the Middle East.

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America Isn’t Ready For Russia’s Nuclear Horn


America Isn’t Ready For Russia’s Battlefield Nuclear Weapons

ByJames Ragland and Adam Lowther

Russia’s Topol-M missile system

With an estimated 100,000 Russian troops positioned near Ukraine’s border and President Biden promising to assist Ukraine against a Russian invasion, the risk of nuclear weapons use is once again on the rise. During the Cold War, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), long-range strategic bombers, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) were the primary threat to human civilization. Today, however, it is Russia’s low-yield short-range battlefield nuclear weapons that pose the greatest nuclear threat.

Unlike strategic nuclear weapons like ICBMs and SLBMs, which have a range of more than 10,000 miles and yields above 150 kilotons, battlefield nuclear weapons are primarily short-range (less than 650 miles) and low yield (.1 to 20 kilotons). The Russians maintain an estimated 3,000-6,000 intra-theater nuclear weapons—many of which fall into this category. The United States, however, has no similar arsenal of battlefield nuclear weapons.

Russian Strategy

In recent years, Russian nuclear weapons were integrated into the nation’s defense posture in much the same way the United States integrated nuclear weapons into its defense of Europe during the Eisenhower administration under the New Look Policy. President Vladimir Putin’s comments concerning his willingness to use nuclear weapons confirm fears that he views nuclear weapons as usable weapons on the battlefield

Exercises such as GROM-2019 incorporated the use of both Russian strategic and battlefield nuclear weapons with dual-use delivery platforms. ZAPAD 2021 also featured strategic and battlefield nuclear weapons—along with over 200,000 Russian and Belarusian troops. According to one analysis, during ZAPAD 2021 the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces potentially simulated a nuclear attack against NATO.

Prior to the recent move of Russian forces to Ukraine’s border, our analysis suggested that the United States and NATO might face a limited Russian nuclear strike in the wake of a Russian invasion of Baltic NATO member-state, like Estonia, where an American-led relieving force is moving East to expel Russian forces. For the sake of understanding just how usable battlefield nuclear weapons are, we offer the following scenario as an example of what is possible in a variety of different circumstances.

Home to Russia’s Baltic Fleet, interceptor aircraft, and heavy armor, Kaliningrad is also home to Russian battlefield nuclear weapons. Kaliningrad is geographically suited as a military stronghold from which Russia can launch a limited nuclear strike. Public statements by President Putin suggest he will use low yield nuclear weapons on the battlefield if Russia is losing a conventional conflict to NATO forces. This “escalate to deescalate” strategy is designed to create a fiat acompli in which NATO backs down after the use of nuclear weapons.

Since NATO and the United States do not possess a similar spectrum of battlefield nuclear weapons, it should come as no surprise that Russian strategy is designed to exploit that advantage. Russia cannot match NATO’s conventional capability.

Understanding Nuclear Weapons Effects

For this scenario, we assume Russia’s objective in using a nuclear weapon is to demonstrate resolve and escalate a conventional conflict to a point where NATO and the United States capitulate to avoid further escalation. We assume Russia detonates a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon in a rural area ahead of advancing NATO forces.

Such a burst would be smaller than either the Little Boy (15 kilotons) or Fat Man (20 kilotons), which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, but large enough to clearly signal escalatory intent. What makes such a nuclear weapon’s use unexpectedly shocking is how little damage it may potentially cause.

Using the formulae found in Samuel Glasstone and Philip Dolan’s The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, some interesting results present themselves. First, if the Russians were to detonate their 10-kiloton nuclear weapon at a height of burst 587.6 feet above ground level, the ensuing fireball would not reach the ground. Thus, this “fallout free” detonation would not create the nuclear fallout zone that many Americans think results from a nuclear detonation. It would essentially result in a “clean” detonation.

Second, if the weapon were detonated above a rural area in front of advancing American troops, the prompt ionizing radiation (beta and gamma) released from the nuclear blast (deadly to humans) would dissipate within a radius of less than one thousand yards in less than a minute. This means exposed troops marching down a road could be very close to the detonation without receiving a harmful dose of ionizing radiation. If protected inside vehicles, buildings, or foxholes, the minimum safe distance from the detonation is even closer.Russia

Because the detonation described here is a “fallout free” air burst, there is no debris field that poses a radiological threat to American troops. Radiological debris occurs when a “ground burst” sucks material from the ground into the blast cloud, where it is irradiated, and deposits radiological debris back on the ground.

According to our analysis, even if the 10-kiloton detonation were a ground burst, NATO troops would only be required to maneuver one thousand yards to safely move around an irradiated ground zero one day after detonation. Doing so would see an unprotected soldier receive .41 rems of radiation. Considering that a CT scan generates about 1 rem of radiation exposure, the low radiological threat of such a weapon makes its use more feasible.

Third, the blast wave (overpressure) that crushes structures also dissipates after less than one thousand yards. Again, if used as a demonstration strike to signal Russian resolve, the blast wave’s destructive effects in a rural area would cause little damage.

Fourth, the intense thermal radiation (x-ray) released in our theoretical nuclear blast dissipates in a radius of less than one thousand yards and in about one second. Given the location of our demonstration strike, there is limited damage and death due to heat or fire. This contrasts greatly with the examples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were cities largely comprised of wooden structures. It is important to note that it was fire that caused the majority of death and damage in both cities—not radiation.


Advocates of arms control will certainly take issue with our suggestion that adversaries believe it is possible to contemplate the discreet and limited use of nuclear weapons, but the reality is that Vladimir Putin and the Russian leadership believe they have created an asymmetric advantage with their large arsenal of low-yield battlefield nuclear weapons. Denying and mischaracterizing the threat will not make it go away.

The Russian military has the capability and will to use nuclear weapons in limited strikes that are unlikely to lead to full scale nuclear war. If the Russians questions American resolve to trade New York for Berlin, how much more do they question our resolve to trade New York for a cow pasture in northeast Poland? For the Russians, American capability is not in question; it does not exist. It is American will that is under assault.

However, the United States can take effective measures to develop both the capability and will to deter Russian use of battlefield nuclear weapons.


First, it is time for NATO to declare Russia an adversary of the alliance. Absent a clear adversary, it is impossible to effectively plan for deterring or defeating the Russian threat. Making it clear to President Putin that the alliance takes the Russian threat seriously, may signal a level of NATO resolve lacking since the Soviet Union’s collapse. It may also shift the thinking about the nuclear mission of dual-capable aircraft (DCA) in NATO—shifting the purpose of the approximately 150 B61 nuclear weapons in Europe from political tools to weapons of war.

Second, the United States and NATO should invest the time and money required to ensure the alliance’s B61-armed fighter jets maintain readiness rates that allow them to perform the tactical nuclear mission on twenty-four hours’ notice, rather than the months-long schedule. Developing tactics, techniques, and procedures for operating against modern Russian forces are also needed as the nuclear mission shifts from political to operational. Given the domestic politics of some NATO member-states, shifting DCA aircraft and weapons to countries less opposed to nuclear weapons may be necessary. Countries closer to Russia often feel the Russian threat most pointedly.

Third, it is time for the United States to develop a new nuclear-armed ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM II) and medium-range ballistic missile (Pershing III) for deployment in the European theater. Taking a page out of President Ronald Reagan’s playbook in dealing with the Soviet Union prior to the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (1987) would go a long way to promoting stable deterrence in Europe. The United States already has the technical capacity to field such weapons and could do so with relative speed.

Admittedly, the Biden administration is under significant pressure from well-funded arms control groups to reduce the size and role of the nation’s nuclear arsenal in the next Nuclear Posture Review. For many of the groups seeking to shape the Biden administration’s nuclear policies, the elimination of nuclear weapons is akin to a religious tenet and is divorced from any strategic assessment of threats and risk. Thus, it is unlikely the President would approve the development and deployment of new nuclear weapons.

However, promises of “integrated deterrence” are unlikely to achieve the desired effects as there is simply no substitution for nuclear weapons. Allowing Russia, and China, to develop nuclear arsenals that are larger and more diverse than the United States’ creates an asymmetric advantage for our adversaries that is not overcome through diplomatic, informational, or economic means. For authoritarian regimes, the language of power is often the only language spoken. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was correct when he said, “Weakness is provocative.” The United States can no longer wish away the problem.

James Ragland is a bioenvironmental engineer and a 15-year veteran of the United States Air Force. Since 2004, he has been a faculty member of the Defense Nuclear Weapons School, the nation’s premier nuclear and radiological education institution. Mr. Ragland is considered a subject matter expert in nuclear policy and deterrence, nuclear weapons subjects to include design and effects, and nuclear proliferation. He also serves as manager of the nation’s most complete classified nuclear weapons museum

Dr. Adam Lowther is Director of the Department of Multi-Domain Operations at the Army Management Staff College where he leads education and research in that area. He was Professor of Political Science at the US Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS), he taught Twenty-first Century Conflict to senior service college students in the Advanced Strategic Leadership Studies Program. He is an expert in nuclear deterrence, multi-domain operations, and the nuclear programs of Russia and China.

The views expressed are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily represent those of the United States Government.In this article:featuredNuclear WeaponsRussiaTactical Nuclear WeaponsUkraine

WRITTEN BYJames Ragland and Adam Lowther

James Ragland is a bioenvironmental engineer and a 15-year veteran of the United States Air Force. Since 2004, he has been a faculty member of the Defense Nuclear Weapons School, the nation’s premier nuclear and radiological education institution. Mr. Ragland is considered a subject matter expert in nuclear policy and deterrence, nuclear weapons subjects to include design and effects, and nuclear proliferation. He also serves as manager of the nation’s most complete classified nuclear weapons museum Dr. Adam Lowther is Director of the Department of Multi-Domain Operations at the Army Management Staff College where he leads education and research in that area. He was Professor of Political Science at the US Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS), he taught Twenty-first Century Conflict to senior service college students in the Advanced Strategic Leadership Studies Program. He is an expert in nuclear deterrence, multi-domain operations, and the nuclear programs of Russia and China.

Hamas test-fires rockets outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Report: Hamas test-fires rockets into the sea off Gaza

Illustrative photo of Palestinian fishermen on a boat off the coast of the Gaza Strip, February 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

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Israel stops Iran from using nuclear site

Iran stops using nuclear site after attack: UN watchdog

Iran stops using nuclear site after attack: UN watchdog

VIENNA (AFP) – Iran has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) it has stopped production at one of its nuclear facilities attacked last June and transferred work to another site, the watchdog said Monday.

The move responded to a “security concern” following the attack, with the new site “better protected”, a European diplomat told AFP.

The TESA complex in Karaj, which is near the capital Tehran, hosted a workshop to build components for centrifuges, machines used to enrich uranium.

Iran said cameras at the site were damaged on June 23, 2021 during what it called an Israeli “sabotage” operation.

In the aftermath, the Vienna-based IAEA said it did not receive permission to gain access and replace the surveillance equipment damaged in the attack.

The two parties finally struck an agreement in December and new cameras were installed.

However, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said “Iran had informed the Agency on 19 January that it intended to produce centrifuge rotor tubes and bellows at a new location in Esfahan,” according to the UN watchdog.

It said “the Agency could adjust its surveillance and monitoring measures”.

“A few days later, Agency inspectors applied seals on all the relevant machines in the Karaj workshop, placed them under containment and then removed the surveillance cameras installed there,” it said.

“As a result, the production of centrifuge rotor tubes and bellows at the Karaj workshop had ceased,” it added.

Then on January 24 IAEA inspectors set up cameras at a site in Esfahan “to ensure the machines intended for the production of centrifuge rotor tubes and bellows were under monitoring”, it said.

It added that the production of the centrifuge equipment at the new workshop had yet to begin.

Iran has sharply accelerated its nuclear activities in the years since US president Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 international nuclear deal and imposed sweeping sanctions on Tehran.

The 2015 deal — struck between Iran and the United States (under president Barack Obama), Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia — offered Iran drastic relief from international sanctions in return for draconian curbs on its nuclear programme.

After President Joe Biden entered the White House just over a year ago, talks to revive the nuclear deal began in April 2021 in Vienna.

But they stopped for several months as the Islamic republic elected a new ultraconservative government.

The talks finally resumed in late November and are now in their final phase that requires political decisions, according to parties involved in the talks.