Technology allows scientists to hear seismic waves as they arrived on frozen continent
Seismic events aren't rare occurrences on Antarctica, where sections of the frozen desert can experience hundreds of micro-earthquakes an hour due to ice deformation. Some scientists call them icequakes. But in March of 2010, the ice sheets in Antarctica vibrated a bit more than usual because of something more than 3,000 miles away: the 8.8-magnitude Chilean earthquake.
High-frequency icequakes are shown at station HOWD in Antarctica during the distant waves of the 2010 magnitude 8.8 Chile earthquake. The triggered icequakes are indicated by the narrow vertical bands in the middle and lower sections of the graphic. They begin when the P wave arrives approximately 8 minutes (480 seconds) after the Chilean quake and continue through the arrival of the Rayleigh waves. The sound is generated by speeding up the HOWD's seismic data 100 times.
Credit: Georgia Tech
A new Georgia Institute of Technology study published in Nature Geoscience is the first to indicate that Antarctica's frozen ground is sensitive to seismic waves from distant earthquakes.
To study the quake's impact on Antarctica, the Georgia Tech team looked at seismic data from 42 stations in the six hours before and after the 3:34 a.m. event. The researchers used the same technology that allowed them to "hear" the seismic response at large distances for the devastating 2011 magnitude 9 Japan earthquake as it rumbled through the earth.
In other words, they simply removed the longer-period signals as the seismic waves spread from the distant epicenter to identify high-frequency signals from nearby sources. Nearly 30 percent (12 of the 42 stations) showed clear evidence of high-frequency seismic signals as the surface-wave arrived on Antarctica.
"We interpret these events as small icequakes, most of which were triggered during or immediately after the passing of long-period Rayleigh waves generated from the Chilean mainshock," said Zhigang Peng, an associate professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences who led the study. "This is somewhat different from the micro-earthquakes and tremor caused by both Love and Rayleigh-type surface waves that traditionally occur in other tectonically active regions thousands of miles from large earthquakes.
Peng says the subtle difference is that micro-earthquakes respond to both shearing and volumetric deformation from distant events. The newly found icequakes respond only to volumetric deformation.
"Such differences may be subtle, but they tell us that the mechanism of these triggered icequakes and small earthquakes are different," Peng added. "One is more like cracking, while the other is like a shear slip event. It's similar to two hands passing each other."
Some of the icequakes were quick bursts and over in less than one second. Others were long duration, tremor-like signals up to 10 seconds. They occurred in various parts of the continent, including seismic stations along the coast and near the South Pole.
The researchers found the clearest indication of induced high-frequency signals at station HOWD near the northwest corner of the Ellsworth Mountains. Short bursts occurred when the P wave hit the station, then continued again when the Rayleigh wave arrived. The triggered icequakes had very similar high waveform patterns, which indicates repeated failure at a single location, possibly by the opening of cracks.
Peng says the source locations of the icequakes are difficult to determine because there isn't an extensive seismic network coverage in Antarctica.
"But at least some of the icequakes themselves create surface waves, so they are probably formed very close to the ice surface," he added. "While we cannot be certain, we suspect they simply reflect fracturing of ice in the near surface due to alternating volumetric compressions and expansions as the Rayleigh waves passed through Antarctica's frozen ice."
Antarctica was originally not on the research team's target list. While examining seismic stations in the Southern Hemisphere, Peng "accidently" found the triggered icequakes at a few openly available stations. He and former Georgia Tech postdoctoral student Jake Walter (now a research scientist at the Institute for Geophysics at UT Austin) then reached out to other seismologists (the paper's four co-authors) who were in charge of deploying more broadband seismometers in Antarctica.
This project is partially supported by a National Science Foundation CAREER grant (EAR-0956051). Any conclusions expressed are those of the principal investigator and may not necessarily represent the official views of the NSF.
Jason Maderer | Eurek Alert!
Comparing Climate Models to Real World Shows Differences in Precipitation Intensity
17.04.2015 | Department of Energy, Office of Science
GPM sees wind shear affecting remnants of Extra-tropical Cyclone Joalane
16.04.2015 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Astronomers from Chalmers University of Technology have used the giant telescope Alma to reveal an extremely powerful magnetic field very close to a supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy
Astronomers from Chalmers University of Technology have used the giant telescope Alma to reveal an extremely powerful magnetic field very close to a...
A team of physicists from MPQ, Caltech, and ICFO proposes the combination of nano-photonics with ultracold atoms for simulating quantum many-body systems and creating new states of matter.
Ultracold atoms in the so-called optical lattices, that are generated by crosswise superposition of laser beams, have been proven to be one of the most...
According to new research out of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, that is indeed the case. Chetan Jinadatha, M.D., M.P.H., assistant...
Researchers from ICFO, MIT and UC Riverside have been able to develop a graphene-based photodetector capable of converting absorbed light into an electrical voltage at ultrafast timescales
The efficient conversion of light into electricity plays a crucial role in many technologies, ranging from cameras to solar cells.
Electrical charges not only move through wires, they also travel along lengths of DNA, the molecule of life. The property is known as charge transport.
In a new study appearing in the journal Nature Chemistry, authors, Limin Xiang, Julio Palma, Christopher Bruot and others at Arizona State University's...
13.04.2015 | Event News
25.03.2015 | Event News
19.03.2015 | Event News
17.04.2015 | Power and Electrical Engineering
17.04.2015 | Earth Sciences
17.04.2015 | Physics and Astronomy