From mid-October 1989 to August 1992, 40 three-component PANDA (Portable Array for Numerical Data Acquisition) stations were deployed in the central New Madrid seismic zone. Three-component digital seismograms recorded by the PANDA stations in the region are characterized by (1) the very weak direct S arrivals on the vertical component, which can be identified unambiguously from the two horizontal components, and (2) at least two prominent secondary arrivals between the direct P and S arrivals, one (Sp) dominant on the vertical component and another (Ps) with smaller amplitude on the two horizontal components. Travel-time differences between the Sp and S and between the P and Ps are the same for different earthquakes recorded at the same station but are different at different stations even for the same event. Polarization analyses of three-component seismograms and travel-time measurements confirm the interpretation that these two secondary arrivals are the P-to-S (Ps) and S-to-P (Sp) converted waves that occur at the bottom of the sedimentary basin beneath each station. Since abundant well-log data are available in the upper Mississippi embayment, the thickness of the sediments beneath each seismic station can be estimated. Travel-time differences between the direct and the converted waves can be used to calculate average shear-wave velocity for the sediments beneath each station. The estimated shear-wave velocities of the sediments beneath PANDA stations vary from 0.45 to 0.67 km/sec. The higher shear-wave velocity associated with thicker sediments can be interpreted as a consequence of increasing compaction of unconsolidated sediments due to increasing overburden.

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