Continuous seismic threshold monitoring is a technique that has been developed over the past several years to assess the upper magnitude limit of possible seismic events that might have occurred in a geographical target area. The method provides continuous time monitoring at a given confidence level. In this article we expand upon previous work to apply the method to a global network of seismic stations and give examples of applications from a prototype system that will be installed at the International Data Center for monitoring the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Using a global grid of 2562 geographical aiming points, we computed site-specific threshold traces for each grid point and applied spatial interpolation to obtain full global coverage. For each grid point, the procedure is in principle to “focus” the network by tuning the frequency filters and array beams using available information on signal and noise characteristics at each station-site combination. Standard global P-phase attenuation relationships and travel-time tables (IASP91) are used in this initial implementation, but the system lends itself easily to applying station-site-specific corrections (magnitudes, travel times, etc.) to each seismic phase.

We give examples of two main types of applications based on data from a worldwide seismic network: (a) an estimated continuous global threshold level and (b) an estimated continuous global detection capability. The first application provides a continuous view of the global seismic “background field” as calculated from the station data, with the purpose of assessing the upper magnitude limit of any seismic event that might have occurred anywhere on Earth. The second application introduces detection thresholds for each station and provides a simplified estimate, continuously in time, of the n-station detection capability of the network. The latter approach naturally produces higher threshold values, with the difference typically being 0.5-1 magnitude unit. We show that both these approaches are useful especially during large earthquakes, where conventional capability maps based on statistical noise and signal models cannot be applied.

In order to illustrate the usefulness of combining global monitoring with site-specific monitoring for areas of special interest, we consider a large earthquake aftershock sequence in Kamchatka and its effect on the threshold trace in a very different region (the Novaya Zemlya nuclear test site). We demonstrate that the effects of the aftershock signals on the thresholds calculated for Novaya Zemlya are modest, partly because of the emphasis on high-frequency signals. This indicates that threshold monitoring could provide significantly improved seismic monitoring during aftershock sequences compared with conventional methods, for which the large number of detected phases tends to saturate the phase association process.

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