We examine surface and downhole P- and S-wave spectra from local earthquakes recorded at two borehole seismometer arrays (KNW-BH and PFO-BH) installed in the Southern California Batholith region of the San Jacinto Fault zone by the U.S. Geological Survey to assess the influence of the weathered layer on the spectral content of high-frequency (2 to 200 Hz) seismic signals.

Earthquake signals recorded downhole at both sites show significantly improved seismic bandwidth due to both a reduction in ambient noise levels and (especially) to dramatically increased levels of high-frequency signal. Significant seismic signal is observed up to approximately 190 Hz for P waves at KNW-BH. Stacked spectral ratios from these signals indicate that the highly weathered near-surface (between 0 and 150 m) at KNW-BH and PFO-BH exerts a much larger influence on seismic signals than deeper (between 150 and 300 m) material. Modeling of uphole/downhole spectral ratio data suggests Qα ≈ 6.5 and Qβ ≈ 9 between 0 and 150 m, increasing to Qα ≈ 27 and Qβ ≳ 26 between 150 and 300 m. An outcrop-mounted Anza network station, deployed approximately 0.4 km from KNW-BH, displays roughly similar high-frequency content to the KNW-BH downhole sensors, but it exhibits spectra that are significantly colored by directional resonances.

Low-Q and low-velocity near-surface material forms a lossy boundary layer at these borehole sites that is advantageous to the high-frequency downhole environment; not only are noise levels reduced, but reflections from the surface and near-surface are greatly attenuated. As a result, high-frequency recordings from below the weathered zone more nearly resemble those recorded in a whole space than would otherwise be expected.

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