Abstract

Distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) is a new, relatively inexpensive technology that is rapidly demonstrating its promise for recording earthquake waves and other seismic signals in a wide range of research and public safety arenas. It should significantly augment present seismic networks. For several important applications, it should be superior. It employs ordinary fiber‐optic cables, but not as channels for data among separate sophisticated instruments. With DAS, the hair‐thin glass fibers themselves are the sensors. Internal natural flaws serve as seismic strainmeters, kinds of seismic detector. Unused or dark fibers are common in fiber cables widespread around the globe, or in dedicated cables designed for special application, are appropriate for DAS. They can sample passing seismic waves at locations every few meters or closer along paths stretching for tens of kilometers. DAS arrays should enrich the three major areas of local and regional seismology: earthquake monitoring, imaging of faults and many other geologic formations, and hazard assessment. Recent laboratory and field results from DAS tests underscore its broad bandwidth and high‐waveform fidelity. Thus, while still in its infancy, DAS already has shown itself as the working heart—or perhaps ear drums—of a valuable new seismic listening tool. My colleagues and I expect rapid growth of applications. We further expect it to spread into such frontiers as ocean‐bottom seismology, glacial and related cryoseismology, and seismology on other solar system bodies.

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