National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 1999

P wave detection thresholds, Pn velocity estimates, and T wave location uncertainty from oceanic hydrophones

Slack, P.D., C.G. Fox, and R.P. Dziak

J. Geophys. Res., 104(B6), 13,061–13,072, doi: 10.1029/1999JB900112 (1999)

P wave arrivals recorded by the U.S. Navy's SOund SUrveillance System (SOSUS) hydrophone arrays were used to estimate earthquake detection thresholds and Pn velocities in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The Navy hydrophones have been used successfully to detect and locate oceanic earthquakes using their waterborne acoustic tertiary (T) waves; however, use of these hydrophones for seismic body wave detection allows regional seismic analyses to be extended to the oceanic environment. The P wave detection threshold of the SOSUS hydrophones was quantified using the epicentral distance and magnitude of 250 northeast Pacific Ocean earthquakes. Earthquakes with body wave magnitudes as low as 2 have detectable P wave arrivals at epicentral distances of ≤500 km. Earthquakes with mb between 3.5 and 5 were detected ~50% of the time at distances of 100-1500 km, while events with mb > 5 were all detected, even out to distances of 1000-1500 km. Both P and T wave hydrophone arrival times were used to estimate the epicenters of 100 earthquakes. The peak amplitude of the T wave coda and the onset of the P wave were used as the earthquake arrival times to estimate event locations. T wave arrival time residuals have a Gaussian distribution with zero mean, which implies that using T wave peak amplitude is consistent with using the P wave onset as the arrival time. There are typically ≤6 stations used to derive a T wave based location, hence location error ellipses are not well constrained. A Monte Carlo technique was employed to estimate T wave event location uncertainty. T wave locations have error bars of ~1 km in latitude and longitude when >3 hydrophones are used for a location estimate. The detected P wave arrivals and earthquake locations were used to measure Pn velocities. Pn velocity values of 7.9 ± 0.1 and 8.0 ± 0.1 km/s were found for the Pacific and Juan de Fuca plates, respectively. A Pn velocity of 7.5 ± 0.1 km/s was measured for rays traveling northward from the Mendocino Triple Junction along the Cascadia subduction zone. A Pn velocity of 7.7 ± 0.3 km/s was estimated for ray paths originating onshore western North America and traveling to the offshore hydrophones.

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