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Separating sea and slow slip signals on the seafloor

November 29, 2019

Seafloor pressure measurements hold promise for estimating vertical displacements from transient slow slip events on submarine faults. We assess the accuracy of pressure offset estimates that evolve over days to weeks and the confidence with which they may be attributed to tectonic deformation or to the ocean water column. One common approach to resolve this ambiguity assumes water column pressures vary insignificantly over the study region and are represented by stable reference site pressures. Assessing the validity of this assumption requires independent evidence. Correlations between pressures and colocated temperatures collected during the Hikurangi Ocean Bottom Investigation of Tremor and Slow Slip experiment suggest temperatures might provide a useful independent proxy for water column pressures. We compared offsets estimated using several methods, with temperature and other proxies. The use of a temperature proxy was unsuccessful, because seafloor temperatures did not track the seasonal signal that contributes significantly to seafloor pressure changes over the slow slip event period. Regardless of the estimation method, offsets varied within a few cm around some uncertain reference level. Commonly used statistical measures are shown not to be reliable indicators of offset accuracy since offsets contribute minimally to the total variance. Offsets estimated using identical methods but with seafloor pressures simulated using a regional ocean model were larger than those derived from the data but had a similar pattern. Since the model simulates only water column processes, this suggests a significant fraction of the estimated pressure offsets are due to seasonal water column signal and are not of tectonic origin.

Publication Year 2019
Title Separating sea and slow slip signals on the seafloor
DOI 10.1029/2019JB018285
Authors Joan S. Gomberg, Susan Hautala, Paul Johnson, Steve Chiswell
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geophysical Research- Solid Earth
Index ID 70215197
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center