Postby salsinawi » Fri Aug 18, 2006 11:03 pm


Mazin A. Al Salim
Sahil A. Alsinawi


The Iraqi Seismological Unit was initiated within the Iraqi Scientific Research Foundation in 1976, and started operation in the late seventies. The original plan for the network was to have a central station in Baghdad and four secondary stations in Mosul and Sulaimaniyah to the north.Rutba to the west central and Basra in the south. All stations were built and operational in the early eighties except The Basra station, where borehole seismometers were initially suggested to be stationed on the Basrah University campus. The coordinates of the stations are: Baghdad Observatory (BHD) 33.3 N and 44.4 E; Mosul Observatory (MSL) 36.3 N and 43.4 E; Sulymania (SLY) 35.6 N and 45.5 E; Rutba (RTB) 33.03 N and 40.31 E.

The first seismological recording in Iraq was initiated in 1972 when the Geology Department of The University of Baghdad initiated a mobile microearthquake monitoring survey of Iraq. Actually graduate studies on the seismicity of Iraq was initiated in 1972 and expanded and accelerated during the eighties. More than 25 MS project were executed and most of the graduates were appointed at the Seismological Unit.

The Seismological Unit was initially planned to develop into a seismological research center associated with the Iraqi Scientific Research Council, but all these plans were interrupted in the late eighties when the council was dissolved and the seismological unit was transferred to the Meteorological Bureau at the Ministry of Communications up to the present time.

The very well developed and experienced staff during the early eighties, started to dwindle starting with a number of the staff sent to study for their PhD at Saint Louis University and never returned home. A number of other PhD and MS staff member left the country after the first Gulf war.

The Early Beginning:

It was in 1968 that V.Karnick of Prague University have suggested the establishment of a seismological observatory in Iraq. Professor M. Bath of Uppsala University also raised the idea. In 1972 Professor L.Staples of UNESCO in 1970 suggested the establishment of a seismological observatory in Iraq. In the mid seventies Professor Terashima in his first visit to Iraq suggested the establishment of a seismological network in the country.

After the initiation of seismological graduate studies in 1972 at the Geology Department of the University of Baghdad, Hafidh A. A.Ghalib completed the first MS thesis in 1972 under the supervision of Dr. Sahil Alsinawi; this was followed by the initiation of the microseism city survey of Iraq project, using the mobile 3 component short period recording laboratory (TELEDYNE SYSTEM) of Dr. Sahil Alsinawi at the Department of Geology, University of Baghdad and the microearthquake recordings at Al-Mishraq sulphur mine by The State Organization for Minerals NIMCO.

The Seismological Unit:

The Ministry of Higher Education formed a committee and Scientific Research to study the feasibility of a seismological network of Dr. Sahil Alsinawi, Dr. Mohamed J. Abbas and Dr. Hamid Al Saadi and a final report was submitted to the ministry of Higher education and scientific research. It was until March 1972 that the Foundation of Scientific Research have delegated Dr. Sahil Alsinawi, on a part time basis to establish and head a seismological observatory in Iraq .The Establishment of the Seismological Unit 1976 was linked to the Scientific Research Foundation (later known as the Scientific Research Council - SRC) as a dedicated independent seismological body to be established in Iraq. Over a period of less than two years, the first seismological observatory was operational in Baghdad under the name "Baghdad Seismological Observatory".

The first set of instruments in the seismology unit was the visual paper chart recorders with the Mark-III seismometers playing the main source of signal and analog filters were used to bring out short period and long period records. Over the years, the seismology unit acquired an intermediate period three-component recorder before installing the PCM digital recording systems (Beginning of 1984), which opened the new era of digital seismometer in the ISN. The use of broadband seismometers introduced another phase of data quality for the network.

ISN Development

Over the period between 1979 and 1989 ISN got the observatories in Mosul, Sulaimaniya and Rutba running in addition to the central one in Baghdad. The observatory in Basrah went through major difficulties during the period of (1980-1988). The site was changed few times
and the remote station was looted while in the construction phase. After many moves, the site selected was near Al Basrah airport but it was again damaged and in 1991. During the same period (1991), the observatory in Sulaimaniya was looted; instruments destroyed and extremely valuable drum recorded seismograms were destroyed.

ISN established also Field surveys starting with the Kinemetrics PS-1A field stations with visual recording. These were used in a major microearthquake monitoring studies since the late 70's through the cooperation with the Geology Department of the University of Baghdad postgraduate program and later the Iraqi Geological Survey to cover various aspects of local studies. It was used in the aftershock investigations of the major earthquake sequence in northern Iraq in 1980 as well as the microaftershock investigation of the Dhamar (Yemen) earthquake of 1982where a team of Iraqi seismologists team headed by Dr. Sahil Alsinawi, Mazin Al Salim and Salman Khourshid carried field investigations in Yemen .It was the first such experience by a national research facility in the region and a final report was submitted to the Yemeni government.

The post graduate program at Baghdad university under the supervision of Dr. Sahil Alsinawi utilized the ISN mobile units, in coordination with the State Organization for Dams and Reservoirs in studying local seismicity and possible induced activities around major dams and associated reservoirs before and after construction.

When the PCM stations came in 1984 the field surveys took another turn into high-resolution data recording giving a new insight into the local seismicity of various parts of Iraq. By the last quarter of the 80's the ISN was equipped with advanced digital field stations (MARS), making microearthquake surveys more efficient.

Strong Motion Seismology: the strong motion field began with a single SMA-1 device used for training and trial as the seismology unit was just in the beginning of exploring the feasibility of acquiring these instruments before knowing the details of the seismicity in Iraq. In the mid 80's, a set of digital strong motion seismographs were brought into use and a stand alone computer system was

Seismological Data Analysis Lab: This lab began crystallizing in 1984 when the PCM digital systems and the Seismological Analysis System (SAS) computer was used to process the data and create archives. The data analysis capabilities were boosted at the beginning of 1990 by the purchase of the new computer and software packages to process the Mars stations data. Because of the sanctions imposed, having some components undelivered forced the system to be off any practical use.

Seismological Databases: A huge seismological data tapes collection was bought as standard strong motion records for seismic analysis and building code investigations. Additionally, sets of standard earthquake data were made available for researchers and postgraduate students

The Seismological Library: Over the years, the seismology unit (later became the seismology department) compiled a huge library of the most important journals, conference proceedings, textbooks and reference collections related to geophysics in general and seismology in particular. High reputation scientific publications were flowing from all over the world till the limitations imposed by the war crippled the capability to pay for the subscriptions and hence closing the doors in the face of any need for updated references.

The Development of a Geophysical Research Body: Acquiring fresh graduates of other geophysical disciplines in geophysics as well as purchasing high quality geophysical instruments such as the 24 digital channels refraction seismograph, the microgal gravimeter, the georadar, etc all added to the unique capabilities of the department to open new consultancy type applied research venues which used integrated geophysical investigation as a mean to Research site-specific problems.


The Seismological Unit subscribed to the ISC, established very well international relations with other observatories and organized in 1976 the First Arab Seismological Seminar in Baghdad. This meeting lead to the second seminar in Rabat in 1980 and the third seminar in Riyad in 1986 and a fourth seminar in Dhamar-Yemen in 1999.

It was during the second seismological seminar in Rabat the idea of the UNESCO sponsored plan s were laid down for the Project of Pan Arab Mitigation of Earthquake Risk in the Arab Region (PAMERAR). PAMERAR plans were outlined by a UNESCO team of seismologists who laid down the plans to cover the Arab region with a network of stations for seismological, earthquake engineering and hazard assessment for the region. Money was allocated, plans were laid and execution took place in a number of Arab countries. Iraq had its share in the project; instrumentations, computers, mobile labs and other scientific support were given to the Seismological Unit and the Department of Geology at Baghdad University.

The seismological Unit also established relations with the Earthquake Institute of Seismology and Earthquake Engineering in Skopje (IZIIZ), Macedonia. Many scientific exchange visits took place and later the cooperation led to a number of graduate training of Iraqi students at Skopje and the role of the institute in developing the Iraqi seismic code.

Measures for the Future:

The Seismological unit is still present with a probably small number of staff and the Baghdad observatory may be partially working. The graduate students at the University of Baghdad utilized the very well developed and rich seismological library during the last decade.

All efforts should be focused to help reestablish the seismological observatory of Iraq. It is our hope that this research unit is reactivated and brought back to scientific circulation within a year. Funding is needed for new instrumentation and training. The Unit is to be linked to the Research Council if reestablished otherwise the Geology Department of the University of Baghdad is an appropriate destination. This will facilitate better cooperation and help rekindle the graduate research on the seismicity of Iraq


Alsinawi, S. A. and Banno, I.S. (1976): “The First Microearthquake Recording in Iraq”. Tectonophysics, Vol. 36, No. 4, T1-T6.

·Alsinawi, Sahil A. and Ghalib, A. A. (1975): “Seismic Zoning Of Iraq”. Proceedings of the 2nd Scientific Conference of The Foundation of Scientific Research (FSR), Baghdad.

·Alsinawi, Sahil A. and Ghalib, H.A. (1975): “Seismicity And Seismotectonics Of Iraq”. Bull. Coll. Sci. Vol. 16, No. 2, pp369-413.
· ·
·Alsinawi, S. A. (1972): “The Prospects Of Seismological Research In Iraq”. Proceedings of the First Scientific Conference of the FSR, Baghdad, pp162-174
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