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Seismic interferometry and ambient noise tomography in the British Isles

By Heather Nicolson, Andrew Curtis, Brian Baptie and Erica Galetti

Abstract

Traditional methods of imaging the Earth's subsurface using seismic waves require an identifiable, impulsive source of seismic energy, for example an earthquake or explosive source. Naturally occurring, ambient seismic waves form an ever-present source of energy that is conventionally regarded as unusable since it is not impulsive. As such it is generally removed from seismic data and subsequent analysis. A new method known as seismic interferometry can be used to extract useful information about the Earth's subsurface from the ambient noise wavefield. Consequently, seismic interferometry is an important new tool for exploring areas which are otherwise seismically quiescent, such as the British Isles in which there are relatively few strong earthquakes. One of the possible applications of seismic interferometry is ambient noise tomography (ANT). ANT is a way of using interferometry to image subsurface seismic velocity variations using seismic (surface) waves extracted from the background ambient vibrations of the Earth. To date, ANT has been used successfully to image the Earth's crust and upper-mantle on regional and continental scales in many locations and has the power to resolve major geological features such as sedimentary basins and igneous and metamorphic cores. Here we provide a review of seismic interferometry and ANT, and show that the seismic interferometry method works well within the British Isles. We illustrate the usefulness of the method in seismically quiescent areas by presenting the first surface wave group velocity maps of the Scottish Highlands using only ambient seismic noise. These maps show low velocity anomalies in sedimentary basins such as the Moray Firth, and high velocity anomalies in igneous and metamorphic centres such as the Lewisian complex. They also suggest that the Moho shallows from south to north across Scotland which agrees with previous geophysical studies in the region.\ud \u

Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2012
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.pgeola.2011.04.002
OAI identifier: oai:nora.nerc.ac.uk:16819
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