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The Earth Under Surveillance. Climate Change, Geophysics and the Cold War Legacy

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Better understanding of the Cold War as an engine of geophysics research

The Cold War strengthened the scientific study of the Earth and the environment. An EU initiative explored how the Cold War shaped the funding and research paths of leading European centres involved in geophysics research.

Climate Change and Environment

Geophysics flourished during the Cold War when civilian and military research agencies furthered its growth in developed countries. The field got a significant boost from the search for oil and uranium in the developing nuclear arms race between the superpowers. New geophysical surveying methods were also introduced as a result of the requirements of nuclear warfare. In this context, the EU-funded TEUS (The Earth under surveillance. Climate change, geophysics and the Cold War legacy) project set out to discover the origin of geophysics research and how it directly links to the Cold War. The focus was on the relationship between and mutual influence of geosciences and scientific and intelligence programmes in advancing geophysics. Project partners studied the earth sciences from their beginnings up to existing techniques for the monitoring of climatic and environmental changes. This was done in the broader geopolitical context of the Cold War. The TEUS team mapped the emergence of geophysical research as a result of prospecting natural resources, monitoring enemy military and nuclear capability, and surveying global environments. This enabled certain disciplines to receive more support from state organisations, find new patrons and prosper. Overall, findings show that the advancement of geosciences is owed to the overriding mission to obtain knowledge and control the environment as a way of gaining a strategic and military advantage. TEUS shed new light on the environment as a key factor in military operations, and how it led to the establishment of research programmes and monitoring networks to gain geophysical knowledge from around the world.


Cold War, geophysics, TEUS, geosciences

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