One year of sound recorded by a mermaid float in the Pacific: Hydroacoustic earthquake signals and infrasonic ambient noise

Sirawich Pipatprathanporn, Frederik J. Simons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

A fleet of autonomously drifting profiling floats equipped with hydrophones, known by their acronym mermaid, monitors worldwide seismic activity from inside the oceans. The instruments are programmed to detect and transmit acoustic pressure conversions from teleseismic P wave arrivals for use in mantle tomography. Reporting seismograms in near-real time, within hours or days after they were recorded, the instruments are not usually recovered, but if and when they are, their memory buffers can be read out. We present a unique 1-yr-long data set of sound recorded at frequencies between 0.1 and 20 Hz in the South Pacific around French Polynesia by a mermaid float that was, in fact, recovered. Using time-domain, frequency-domain and time-frequency-domain techniques to comb through the time-series, we identified signals from 213 global earthquakes known to published catalogues, with magnitudes 4.6-8.0, and at epicentral distances between 24° and 168°. The observed signals contain seismoacoustic conversions of compressional and shear waves travelling through crust, mantle and core, including P, S, Pdif, Sdif, PKIKP, SKIKS, surface waves and hydroacoustic T phases. Only 10 earthquake records had been automatically reported by the instrument - the others were deemed low-priority by the onboard processing algorithm. After removing all seismic signals from the record, and also those from other transient, dominantly non-seismic, sources, we are left with the infrasonic ambient noise field recorded at 1500 m depth. We relate the temporally varying noise spectral density to a time-resolved ocean-wave model, WAVEWATCH III. The noise record is extremely well explained, both in spectral shape and in temporal variability, by the interaction of oceanic surface gravity waves. These produce secondary microseisms at acoustic frequencies between 0.1 and 1 Hz according to the well-known frequency-doubling mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-212
Number of pages20
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Volume228
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

Keywords

  • Infrasound
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Seismic noise

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