The US Geological Survey reported a 4.9 magnitude earthquake occurred at 9:57pm eastern time tonight.
The quake was detected 24 kilometers east-northeast of Sungjibaegam near the Sea of Japan. There are no immediate reports of damage or injuries.
This seismic activity may be the result of a test of a nuclear weapon. Nuclear detonations can cause seismic activity. The USGS reported that this quake's epicenter was at a depth of only one kilometer, within the depth of underground nuclear testing.
North Korea has been warning that they will conduct further nuclear testing, and continue with tests of its long range missile systems.
This seismic activity is very near the locations of the secretive regime's previous two underground nuclear tests.
North Korea has conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 and have been developing long-range rockets to carry nuclear warheads.
The seismic waves created by nuclear explosions are slightly different than those from normal earthquakes. The dominant seismic waves produced by a nuclear explosion are fast-traveling compressional, or P-waves, which alternately compress and dilate the ground outward from the source--the signature of an explosion. Earthquakes, by comparison, usually start out with weaker P-waves, and produce more shear waves, which shake the ground sideways in relation to their direction of travel (http://bit.ly/VRgvdp).
Further analysis from seismologists will be required to determine which type of waves were present in this event.
North Korea's President, Kim Jong-Un, has been threatened to conduct further nuclear test two weeks ago. His tough rhetoric has been aimed at South Korea, Japan and the United States. Kim has been boasting that his country's latest missiles can carry nuclear warheads to the United States.
This comes on the eve of President Obama's State of the Union Address in which it is predicted that he will call for further cuts in America's nuclear arsenal. The timing serves as another indicator that this was in fact a nuclear test.
There has been no statement from the North Koreans.
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