Characterizing swells in the southern Pacific from seismic and infrasonic noise analyses

Abstract : A temporary network of 10 broad-band seismic stations has been installed in French Polynesia for the Polynesian Lithosphere and Upper Mantle Experiment (PLUME). All the seismic stations were installed either on volcanic islands or on atolls of the various archipelagos of French Polynesia in a manner which complements the geographic coverage provided by the regional permanent stations. The primary aim of PLUME is to image the upper mantle structures related to plate motion and hotspot activity. However, because of its proximity to all sites, the ocean is responsible for a high level of noise in the seismic data and we show that these data can also be used to analyse ocean wave activity. The power spectral density (PSD) analyses of the seismic data recorded in French Polynesia show clear peaks in the 0.05– 0.10 Hz band (periods between 10 and 20 s), which corresponds to swell frequencies. Clear peaks in this frequency band are also observed in infrasonic data recorded on Tahiti. Ground motion analysis shows that the swell-related seismic noise (SRSN) is linearly polarized in the horizontal plane and its amplitude decreases rapidly with the distance from the shore. The microseismic and the infrasonic 'noise' amplitudes show very similar variations from station to station and both are strongly correlated with the swell amplitudes predicted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), wind-forced, 'WaveWatch' models. The swell direction can be estimated from SRSN polarization analysis but this has to be done with care since, for some cases, the ground motions are strongly controlled by the islands' anisometric shapes and by swell refraction processes. We find cases, however, such as Tahiti or roughly circular Tuamotu atolls, where the azimuth of the swell is in good agreement with the seismic estimates. We, therefore, demonstrate that the SRSN and the infrasonic signal observed in French Polynesia can be used in such cases as a proxy for swell amplitude and azimuth. From the continuous analysis of the data recorded in 2003 at the permanent seismic station PPTL in Tahiti, transfer functions have been obtained. This could provide a way to quantify the swell activity during the last two decades and, therefore, assist in the investigation of climate changes.
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Geophysical Journal International, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2006, 164, pp.516-542. 〈10.1111/j.1365-246X.2006.02871.x〉
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Guilhem Barruol, Dominique Reymond, Fabrice Fontaine, Olivier Hyvernaud, Vincent Maurer, et al.. Characterizing swells in the southern Pacific from seismic and infrasonic noise analyses. Geophysical Journal International, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2006, 164, pp.516-542. 〈10.1111/j.1365-246X.2006.02871.x〉. 〈hal-01388809〉

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