Strong Directivity of Ocean-Generated Seismic Noise 1

Strong Directivity of Ocean-Generated Seismic Noise 1 The figure shows two instances of ocean wave height and corresponding seismic noise directions on land in January 1998. Direction of 2-10 s period noise at the Lodore array in Wyoming plotted as yellow arrow; noise directions at Anza array, California are shown in pink (2-10s period) and red (10-20 s period). Note the excitation of seismic noise from storms hitting distant coasts in Labrador and British Columbia.

We measure direction and amplitude of ocean-generated continuous seismic noise in the western US. Slowness direction of the noise is determined using array beamforming, and particle motion direction from individual three-component stations. We find two surprising results. First, the noise is highly monodirectional at all sites, regardless of coastal distance. A single narrow generation area dominates for most of the time period, interrupted by a second well-defined direction during ocean swell events. Second, we find that a storm off the Labrador coast with not unusual wave heights generates coherent noise across the entire continent. We show the causal relationship between swells arriving at different North American coastal areas and the triggered microseisms in time-lapse movies of ocean swells and concurrent microseisms.

Our results have a number of implications for different fields of research. A useful by-product of our finding that microseisms are a strongly directional noise source is the possibility of using automated processing of the continuous noise as a near real-time check on station polarity and calibration problems, which would be a simply implemented indicator for the state of health of a seismic network. Consistent monodirectional noise may have an influence on seismic azimuthal measurements such as shear wave splitting. Most importantly, our findings should be taken into account in proposed studies which will use seismic noise as a proxy for ocean wave height in investigations of interdecadal climate change.

Schulte-Pelkum, V., P. S. Earle and F. L. Vernon, Strong directivity of ocean-generated seismic noise, Geochem. Geophys. Geosys., 5, doi:10.1029/2003GC000520, 2004.


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