Ambient noise conditions at four IRIS/IDA sites in the USSR are characterized from 0.01 to 100 Hz as part of a study to ascertain the utility of broadband three-component seismic stations in monitoring regional Eurasian seismicity. Estimates of the power spectral density of noise levels were computed for a 5-day period in two seasons (winter and summer), at two times of the day. Of these periods, lower noise conditions were found at night in the summer. In general, at 1 Hz and above, noise levels and their variations correlate predictably with the soundness of vault construction and the proximity of the station to civilization. Absolute noise levels at the IRIS/IDA/USSR sites range from a high of about −120 dB to a low of −155 dB relative to (1 m/s2)2/Hz, between 1 and 5 Hz. A time-of-day variation in noise was observed at all sites, with noise levels during the work day ranging from 7 to 14 dB higher than night levels, depending on the site. This effect was observed only for frequencies above about 1 Hz. Observed seasonal variations (winter versus summer) are highly station dependent, although the seasonal effect is restricted to frequencies below 1 Hz and is in general centered on the microseism peak (0.1 to 0.2 Hz). Below 0.1 Hz, noise levels are influenced by the thermal and barometric isolation of the site. Low-frequency levels were not studied below 0.01 Hz. Minimum detectable magnitudes are estimated for the IRIS/IDA stations using the observed noise levels over 1 Hz. In general, a magnitude 3 event should be detectable at 1,000 km by all stations under night noise conditions if the dominant signal frequency is 1 Hz; the magnitude estimates increase with increasing frequency. These detectability estimates assume a conservative signal-to-noise ratio of 6.
High-frequency data recorded by independent equipment co-located with the IRIS/IDA system during a 2-week experiment allow estimation of noise levels at the sites up to 100 Hz. Borehole versus surface noise levels recorded during the high-frequency experiment showed significant noise reduction (20 dB) can be achieved by borehole deployment at sites with exposed surface vaults. With well-isolated surface vaults, borehole noise reduction is about a factor of 2. Absolute noise levels between 1 to 10 Hz observed at IRIS/IDA/USSR sites are systematically higher than average NORESS noise by about 7 dB to 25 dB, depending on the station.