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Published May 1, 2020 | Accepted + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

A Plan for a Long-Term, Automated, Broadband Seismic Monitoring Network on the Global Seafloor


Establishing an extensive and highly durable, long‐term, seafloor network of autonomous broadband seismic stations to complement the land‐based Global Seismographic Network has been a goal of seismologists for decades. Seismic signals, chiefly the vibrations from earthquakes but also signals generated by storms and other environmental processes, have been processed from land‐based seismic stations to build intriguing but incomplete images of the Earth's interior. Seismologists have mapped structures such as tectonic plates and other crustal remnants sinking deep into the mantle to obtain information on their chemical composition and physical state; but resolution of these structures from land stations is not globally uniform. Because the global surface is two‐thirds ocean, increasing the number of seismic stations located in the oceans is critical for better resolution of the Earth's interior and tectonic structures. A recommendation for a long‐term seafloor seismic station pilot experiment is presented here. The overarching instrumentation goal of a pilot experiment is performance that will lead to the installation of a large number of long‐term autonomous ocean‐bottom seismic stations. The payoff of a network of stations separated from one another by a few hundred kilometers under the global oceans would be greatly refined resolution of the Earth's interior at all depths. A second prime result would be enriched understanding of large‐earthquake rupture processes in both oceanic and continental plates. The experiment would take advantage of newly available technologies such as robotic wave gliders that put an affordable autonomous prototype within reach. These technologies would allow data to be relayed to satellites from seismometers that are deployed on the seafloor with long‐lasting, rechargeable batteries. Two regions are presented as promising arenas for such a prototype seafloor seismic station. One site is the central North Atlantic Ocean, and the other high‐interest locale is the central South Pacific Ocean.

Additional Information

© 2020 Seismological Society of America. Manuscript received 20 May 2019; Published online 15 April 2020. The authors wish to acknowledge the participants of the 2017 Ocean‐Bottom Seismometer (OBS) Symposium, 2017 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting Special Interest Group (SIG), and 2018 Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) workshop SIG meetings for their feedback. This study was partially supported by Seismological Facilities for the Advancement of Geoscience (SAGE), which is a major facility fully funded by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Support Agreement EAR‐1851048. Data and Resources: Some plots were made using the Generic Mapping Tools v.4.2.1 (www.soest.hawaii.edu/gmt; Wessel and Smith, 1998). Figure 1 was made by Ellen Kappel and Figure 2 by Andy Frassetto. Additional relevant information was obtained from the following websites: National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC, https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/), Ocean Networks Canada: Neptune Array (http://www.oceannetworks.ca/observatories), Ocean Observatories Initiative (https://ooi-website.whoi.edu/array/cabled-axial-seamount/), and Pacific Array (http://eri-ndc.eri.u-tokyo.ac.jp/PacificArray/). All websites were last accessed in February 2020. The supplemental material consists of two sections: section I contains the survey questions and percentage breakdowns of respondents' answers to each question; and section II contains maps produced for additional seismic phases.

Attached Files

Accepted Version - SRL-2019123.pdf

Supplemental Material - srl-2019123_supplement.pdf


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August 19, 2023
March 6, 2024