Posthole Broadband Sensor Emplacement vs. Surface Vaults: Observations of Comparative Noise Performance and Trade-offs
Abstract:Advances in seismometer design have diversified the range of instruments available for use in temporary field installations. IRIS programs, primarily PASSCAL and the Transportable Array (TA), have helped steer development of these new instruments to meet these evolving needs. PASSCAL operates a small pool of posthole broadband sensors, purpose built for direct burial. Near surface posthole installations are a new, cost effective, and logistically simple technique for broadband emplacement that is an alternative to the vault installations used in portable broadband seismic experiments for nearly 30 years. Direct burial installation is limited to the time and effort required to dig the borehole and emplace the sensor, thus reducing both material costs and time to install. Also, in Alaska, extreme environments and difficult logistics make standard TA tank vaults inappropriate for most sites. TA has developed improved deployment strategies for these environments. There, holes for posthole sensors are hammer- drilled or augered to several meters depth in soil, permafrost, or bedrock and then cased. These emplacement costs are generally less than standard TA vaults.
We compare various installation techniques for test cases as well as general deployments of PASSCAL and TA stations. Automated noise performance analyses have been part of the TA throughout its operation, but until recently vault performance for portable installations supported by the PASSCAL program was sparse. In this study, we select a suite of co-located direct burial and surface vault installations and compare their noise performance using probability density functions. Our initial analyses suggest that direct burial sensors have lower noise levels than vault installations on both horizontal and vertical channels across a range of periods spanning <1 s to 100 s. However, most of these initial experiments for PASSCAL were with sensors not purpose built for direct burial and it became obvious that a sensor designed for direct burial was necessary. For the TA, direct emplacement of purpose-built sensors has routinely improved noise levels, particularly beyond about 20 s, by tens of dB. These results suggest that moving towards an instrument pool composed primarily of purpose-built direct burial sensors could yield higher-quality data at lower cost.