On the potential of recording earthquakes for global seismic tomography by low-cost autonomous instruments in the oceans

Frederik Jozef Simons, Guust Nolet, Paul Georgief, Jeff M. Babcock, Lloyd A. Regier, Russ E. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


[1] We describe the development and testing of an autonomous device designed to revolutionize Earth structure determination via global seismic tomography by detecting earthquakes at teleseismic distances in the oceans. One prototype MERMAID, short for Mobile Earthquake Recording in Marine Areas by Independent Divers, was constructed and tested at sea. The instrument combines two readily available, relatively low-cost but state-of-the-art components: a Sounding Oceanographic Lagrangian Observer, or SOLO float, and an off-the-shelf hydrophone, with custom-built data logging hardware. We report on the development of efficient wavelet-based algorithms for the detection and discrimination of seismic events and analyze three time series of acoustic pressure collected at a depth of 700 m in pilot experiments conducted offshore San Diego, CA. In these tests, over 120 hours of data were gathered, and five earthquakes, of which one was teleseismic, were recorded and identified. Quantitative estimates based on these results suggest that instruments of the MERMAID type may collect up to a hundred tomographically useful teleseismic events per year. The final design will also incorporate a Global Positioning System receiver, onboard signal processing software optimized for low-power chips, and high-throughput satellite communication equipment for telemetered data transfer. With these improvements, we hope to realize our vision of a global array of autonomous floating sensors for whole-earth seismic tomography.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)B05307
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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