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Recording the aurora borealis (northern lights) at seismometers across Alaska

July 29, 2020

We examine three continuously recording data sets related to the aurora: all‐sky camera images, three‐component magnetometer data, and vertical‐component, broadband seismic data as part of the EarthScope project (2014 to present). Across Alaska there are six all‐sky cameras, 13 magnetometers, and >200">>200>200 seismometers. The all‐sky images and magnetometers have the same objective, which is to monitor space weather and improve our understanding of auroral activity, including the influence on magnetic fields in the ground. These variations in the magnetic field are also visible on seismometers, to the extent that during an auroral event, the long‐period (40–800 s) waves recorded by a seismometer are magnetic field variations, not true ground motion. Although this is a problem—one that can be rectified with magnetic shielding at each seismometer site—it is also an opportunity because the present seismic array in Alaska is much broader than the coverage by magnetometers and all‐sky cameras. Here we focus on three aurora events and document a direct link between aurora images in the night sky and seismometer recordings on ground. Simultaneous recordings by magnetometers provide a critical link between the sky images and the seismometer recordings. We document qualitative correlations among sky, magnetic, and seismic data. The findings suggest that the signature of auroral activity is widespread across seismometers in Alaska, implying that the seismic array could be used to enhance the spatial resolution of the existing network of all‐sky cameras and magnetometers. Future efforts to improve the multisensor seismic stations in Alaska, for the purpose of monitoring seismic and auroral activity, should consider installation of all‐sky cameras, installation of magnetometers, and magnetic shielding of seismic sensors.

Publication Year 2020
Title Recording the aurora borealis (northern lights) at seismometers across Alaska
DOI 10.1785/0220200161
Authors C. Tape, Adam T. Ringler, D.L. Hampton
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Seismological Research Letters
Index ID 70216060
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geologic Hazards Science Center