Monitoring Seasonal Changes in Permafrost Using Seismic Interferometry

Wednesday, 16 December 2015: 17:15
307 (Moscone South)
Stephanie R. James1,2, Hunter Anne Knox2 and Robert E Abbott2, (1)Univ of FL-Geological Sciences, Gainesville, FL, United States, (2)Sandia National Laboratories, Geophysics & Atmospheric Sciences, Albuquerque, NM, United States
The effects of climate change in polar regions and their incorporation in global climate models has recently become an area of great interest. Permafrost holds entrapped greenhouse gases, e.g. CO2 and CH4, which are released to the atmosphere upon thawing, creating a positive feedback mechanism. Knowledge of seasonal changes in active layer thickness as well as long term degradation of permafrost is critical to the management of high latitude infrastructures, hazard mitigation, and increasing the accuracy of climate predictions. Methods for effectively imaging the spatial extent, depth, thickness, and discontinuous nature of permafrost over large areas are needed. Furthermore, continuous monitoring of permafrost over annual time scales would provide valuable insight into permafrost degradation. Seismic interferometry using ambient seismic noise has proven effective for recording velocity changes within the subsurface for a variety of applications, but has yet to be applied to permafrost studies. To this end, we deployed 7 Nanometrics Trillium posthole broadband seismometers within Poker Flat Research Range, located 30 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska in a zone of discontinuous permafrost. Approximately 2 years worth of nearly continuous ambient noise data was collected. Using the python package MSNoise, relative changes in velocity were calculated. Results show high amounts of variability throughout the study period. General trends of negative relative velocity shifts can be seen between August and October followed by a positive relative velocity shift between November and February. Differences in relative velocity changes with both frequency and spatial location are also observed, suggesting this technique is sensitive to permafrost variation with depth and extent. Overall, short and long term changes in shallow subsurface velocity can be recovered using this method proposing seismic interferometry is a promising new technique for permafrost monitoring. Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory managed and operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration under contract DE-AC04-94AL85000.