The Wilson Alaska Technical Center was created to recognize the accomplishments and growing stature of nuclear treaty monitoring support programs at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Establishment of the center provides the necessary structure, visibility and support to better serve our customers in nuclear treaty verification across the spectrum, from basic research to operations and maintenance. WATC actively partners with US agencies, national laboratories, academic institutions, industry and international organizations to meet treaty requirements.
The history of support for the National Technical Means at the Geophysical Institute dates back to Nov. 18, 1971, when an acoustic monitoring station installed at Stevens Village, Alaska, was used to detect and characterize a Chinese nuclear test from nearly 8,000 km distance. The image below depicts the acoustic signals received from the 20-kiloton nuclear cratering experiment (CHIC-12) conducted at the Chinese test facility, Lop Nur. Cessation of atmospheric nuclear testing in the 1980s led to a gap in this work at UAF; however, the opening of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty for signature in 1996 saw the treaty support team at the Geophysical Institute reconstituted – it has been in continuous operation and growth ever since.
During an international workshop, hosted by UAF in 2006, the treaty group at the Geophysical Institute informally became known as the Wilson Infrasound Observatories. This was in honor of the contributions of Emeritus Professor Charles “Buck” Wilson to low frequency acoustics and nuclear treaty monitoring. The University of Alaska president formally recognized Wilson's legacy on May 4, 2015, with the creation of the Wilson Alaska Technical Center. Although retired, Buck continues to lend his expertise to the faculty, staff and students of the group.
Today WATC operates more than twenty infrasound and seismic arrays worldwide in support of various domestic, international and scientific agencies.