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Towards understanding relationships between atmospheric pressure variations and long-period horizontal seismic data: A case study

July 16, 2020

Variations in atmospheric pressure have long been known to introduce noise in long-period (>10 s) seismic records. This noise can overwhelm signals of interest such as normal modes and surface waves. Generally, this noise is most pronounced on the horizontal components where it arises due to tilting of the seismometer in response to changes in atmospheric pressure. Several studies have suggested methodologies for correcting unwanted pressure-induced noise using collocated microbarograph records. However, how applicable these corrections are to varying geologic settings and installation types (e.g. vault versus post-hole) is unclear. Using coefficients obtained by solving for the residuals of these corrections, we can empirically determine the sensitivity of instruments in a specific location to the influences of pressure. To better understand how long-period, pressure-induced noise changes with time and emplacement, we examine horizontal seismic records along with barometric pressure at five different Global Seismographic Network stations, all with multiple broadband seismometers. We also analyse three Streckeisen STS-2 broadband seismometers, which are collocated with a microbarograph, at the Albuquerque Seismological Laboratory. We observe periods of high magnitude-squared-coherence (γ2-coherence; γ2 > 0.8) between the seismic and pressure signals which fluctuate through time, frequency, and even between seismic instruments in the same vault. These observations suggest that these tilt-generated signals are highly sensitive to very local (<10 m) site effects. However, we find that in cases where instruments are not located at a large depth (<100 m), the pressure-induced noise is polarized in a nearly constant direction that is consistent with local topographic features or the geometry of the vault. We also find that borehole instruments at a large depth (>100 m) appear to be unaffected by pressure-loading mechanisms outlined by Sorrells (1971) but possibly by Newtonian attraction. Correlating the induced-noise polarization direction with times of high coherence, we work to identify sensors that are ultimately limited by pressure-induced horizontal noise as well as period bands that can benefit from pressure corrections. We find that while the situation is complex, each sensor appears to have its own unique response to pressure. Our findings suggest that we can determine empirical relationships between pressure and induced tilt on a case by case basis.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Towards understanding relationships between atmospheric pressure variations and long-period horizontal seismic data: A case study
DOI 10.1093/gji/ggaa340
Authors Alexis Casondra Bianca Alejandro, Adam T. Ringler, David C. Wilson, Robert E. Anthony, S.V. Moore
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geophysical Journal International
Index ID 70217192
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geologic Hazards Science Center