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Article Dans Une Revue Seismological Research Letters Année : 2021

Humming trains in seismology: an opportune source for probing the shallow crust


Seismologists are eagerly seeking new and preferably low‐cost ways to map and track changes in the complex structure of the top few kilometers of the crust. By understanding it better, they can build on what is known regarding important, practical issues. These include telling us whether imminent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are generating telltale underground signs of hazard, about mitigation of induced seismicity such as from deep injection of wastewater, how the Earth and its atmosphere couple, and where accessible natural resources are. Passive seismic imaging usually relies on blind correlations within extended recordings of Earth’s ceaseless “hum” or coda of well‐mixed, small vibrations. In this article, we propose a complementary approach. It is seismic interferometry using opportune sources—specifically ones not stationary in time and moving in a well‐understood configuration. Its interpretation relies on an accurate understanding of how these sources radiate seismic waves, precise timing, careful placement of pairs of listening stations, and seismic phase differentiation (surface and body waves). Massive freight trains were only recently recognized as such a persistent, powerful cultural (human activity‐caused) seismic source. One train passage may generate a tremor with an energy output of a magnitude 1 earthquake and be detectable for up to 100 km from the track. We discuss the source mechanisms of train tremors and review the basic theory on sources. Finally, we present case studies of body‐ and surface‐wave retrieval as an aid to mineral exploration in Canada and to monitoring of a southern California fault zone. We believe noise recovery from this new signal source, together with dense data acquisition technologies such as nodes or distributed acoustic sensing, will deeply transform our ability to monitor activity in the shallow crust at sharpened resolution in time and space.
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hal-03174914 , version 1 (25-05-2021)



Laura Pinzon-Rincon, François Lavoué, Aurélien Mordret, Pierre Boué, Florent Brenguier, et al.. Humming trains in seismology: an opportune source for probing the shallow crust. Seismological Research Letters, 2021, 92 (2A), pp.623-635. ⟨10.1785/0220200248⟩. ⟨hal-03174914⟩
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