Very low frequency seismo-acoustic noise below the sea floor (0.2-10 Hz)
Bradley, Christopher R.
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LocationBlake Bahama Basin
Ambient noise in the sea has been observed for over 100 years. Previous studies conclude that the primary source of microseisms is nonlinear interaction of surface gravity waves at the sea surface. Though this source relationship is generally accepted, the actual processes by which the wave generated acoustic noise in the water column couples and propagates to and along the sea floor are not well understood. In this thesis, the sources and propagation of sea floor and sub-sea floor microseismic noise between 0.2 and 10 Hz are investigated. This thesis involves a combination of theoretical, observational and numerical analysis to probe the nature of the microseismic field in the Blake Bahama Basin. Surface waves are the primary mechanism for noise propagation in the crust and fall into two separate groups depending on the relative wavelength/water depth ratio. Asymptotic analysis of the Sommerfeld integral in the complex ray parameter plane shows results that agree with previous findings by Strick (1959) and reveal two fundamental interface wave modes for short wavelength noise propagation in the crust: the Stoneley and pseudo-Rayleigh wave. For ocean sediments, where the shear wave velocity is less than the acoustic wave velocity of water, only the Stoneley interface wave can exist. For well consolidated sediments and basalt, the shear velocity exceeds the acoustic wave velocity of water and the pseudo-Rayleigh wave can also exist. Both interface waves propagate with retrograde elliptic motion at the sea floor and attenuate with depth into the crust, however the pseudo-Rayleigh wave travels along the interface with dispersion and attenuation and "leaks" energy into the water column for a half-space ocean over elastic crust model. For finite depth ocean models, the pseudo-Rayleigh wave is no longer leaky and approaches the Rayleigh wave velocity of the crust. The analysis shows that longer wavelength noise propagates as Rayleigh and Stoneley modes of the ocean+crust waveguide. These long wavelength modes are the fundamental mechanism for long range noise propagation. During the Low Frequency Acoustic Seismic Experiment (LFASE) a four-node, 12- channel borehole array (SEABASS) was deployed in the Blake Bahama Basin off the coast of eastern Florida (DSDP Hole 534B). This experiment is unique and is the first use of a borehole array to measure microseismic noise below the sea floor. Ambient background noise from a one week period is compared between an Ocean Bottom Seismometer (OBS) and SEABASS at sub-bottom depths of 10, 40, 70 and 100 meters below the sea floor. The 0.3 H z microseism peak is found to be nearly invariant with depth and has a power level of 65 and 75 dB rel 1 (nm/ s2)2)/ H z for the vertical and horizontal components respectively. At 100 m depth, the mean microseismic noise levels above 0.7 Hz are 10 dB and 15-20 dB quieter for the vertical and horizontal components respectively. Most of this attenuation occurs in the upper 10 m above 1.0 Hz, however higher modes in the spectra show narrow bandwidth variability in the noise field that is not monotonic with depth. Dispersion calculations show normal mode Stoneley waves below 0.7 Hz and evidence of higher modes above 0.8 Hz. A strong correlation between noise levels in the borehole and local sea state conditions is observed along with clear observation of the nonlinear frequency doubling effect between ocean surface waves and microseisms. Particle motion analysis further verifies that noise propagates through the array as Rayleigh/Stoneley waves. Polarization direction indicates at least two sources; distant westerly swell during quiescent times and local surface waves due to a passing storm. Above 1.0 Hz the LFASE data shows little coherence and displays random polarization. Because of this, we believe scattered energy is a significant component of the noise field in the Blake Bahama Basin. A fully 3-D finite difference algorithm is used to model both surface and volume heterogeneities in the ocean crust. Numerical modeling of wave propagation for hard and soft bottom environments shows that heterogeneities on the order of a seismic wavelength radiate energy into the water column and convert acoustic waves in the water into small wavelength Stoneley waves observed at the borehole. Sea floor roughness is the most important elastic scattering feature of the ocean crust. Comparisons of 2D and 3D rough sea floor models show that out-of-plane effects necessitate the use of 3D methods. The out-of-plane energy that is present in the LFASE data comes from either heterogeneities in the source field (i.e. mixed gravity wave directions) or, equally likely, scattering of the source field from surface or volume heterogeneities in the sea floor.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution February 1994
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