A Seafloor Benchmark for 3-dimensional Geodesy

Monday, 15 December 2014
C David Chadwell, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States, Spahr C Webb, Lamont Doherty Earth Observ, Palisades, NY, United States and Scott L Nooner, UNC Wilmington, Dept of Geography and Geology, Wilmington, NC, United States
We have developed an inexpensive, permanent seafloor benchmark to increase the longevity of seafloor geodetic measurements. The benchmark provides a physical tie to the sea floor lasting for decades (perhaps longer) on which geodetic sensors can be repeatedly placed and removed with millimeter resolution. Global coordinates estimated with seafloor geodetic techniques will remain attached to the benchmark allowing for the interchange of sensors as they fail or become obsolete, or for the sensors to be removed and used elsewhere, all the while maintaining a coherent series of positions referenced to the benchmark. The benchmark has been designed to free fall from the sea surface with transponders attached. The transponder can be recalled via an acoustic command sent from the surface to release from the benchmark and freely float to the sea surface for recovery. The duration of the sensor attachment to the benchmark will last from a few days to a few years depending on the specific needs of the experiment. The recovered sensors are then available to be reused at other locations, or again at the same site in the future.

Three pins on the sensor frame mate precisely and unambiguously with three grooves on the benchmark.

To reoccupy a benchmark a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) uses its manipulator arm to place the sensor pins into the benchmark grooves. In June 2014 we deployed four benchmarks offshore central Oregon. We used the ROV Jason to successfully demonstrate the removal and replacement of packages onto the benchmark. We will show the benchmark design and its operational capabilities.

Presently models of megathrust slip within the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) are mostly constrained by the sub-aerial GPS vectors from the Plate Boundary Observatory, a part of Earthscope. More long-lived seafloor geodetic measures are needed to better understand the earthquake and tsunami risk associated with a large rupture of the thrust fault within the Cascadia subduction zone. Using a ROV to place and remove sensors on the benchmarks will significantly reduce the number of sensors required by the community to monitor offshore strain in subduction zones.