High-frequency analysis of seismic background noise as a function of wind speed and shallow depth


We used a deep (1500 m) cased borehole near the town of Datil in west-central New Mexico to study high-frequency (>1 Hz) seismic noise characteristics. The remote site had very low levels of cultural noise, but strong winds (winter and spring) made the site an excellent candidate to study the effects of wind noise on seismograms. Along with a three-component set of surface sensors (Teledyne Geotech GS-13), a vertical borehole seismometer (GS-28) was deployed at a variety of depths (5, 43, and 85 m) to investigate signal and noise variations. Wind speed was measured with an anemometer. Event-triggered and time-triggered data streams were recorded on a RefTek 72-02 data acquisition system located at the site. Our data show little cultural noise and a strong correlation between wind speed and seismic background noise. The minimum wind speed at which the seismic background noise appears to be influenced varies with depth: 3 m/sec at the surface, 3.5 m/sec at 43 m in depth, and 4 m/sec at 85 m in depth. For wind speed below 3 to 4 m/sec, we observe omni-directional background noise that is coherent at frequencies below 15 Hz. This coherence is destroyed when wind speeds exceed 3 to 4 m/sec. We use a test event (Md ∼ 1.6) and superimposed noise to investigate signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) improvement with sensor depth. For the low Q valley fill of the Datil borehole (DBH) site, we have found that SNR can be improved by as much as 20 to 40 dB between 23 and 55 Hz and 10 to 20 dB between 10 and 20 Hz, by deploying at a 43-m depth rather than at the surface. At the surface, there is little signal above noise in the 23- to 55-Hz frequency band for wind speeds greater than 8 m/sec. Thus, high-frequency signal information that is lost at the surface can be recorded by deploying at the relatively shallow depth of 40 m. Because we observe only minor further reductions in seismic background noise (SBN) at deeper depths, 40 m is likely to be a reasonable deployment depth for other high-frequency-monitoring sites in similar environmental and geologic conditions.

Publication Title

Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America

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