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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 4, issue 2
Earth Surf. Dynam., 4, 285–307, 2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Special issue: Acoustic and seismic monitoring of bedload and mass...

Earth Surf. Dynam., 4, 285–307, 2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Review article 05 Apr 2016

Review article | 05 Apr 2016

Seismic monitoring of torrential and fluvial processes

Arnaud Burtin1,a, Niels Hovius1, and Jens M. Turowski1,2 Arnaud Burtin et al.
  • 1GeoForschungsZentrum, Helmholtz Centre Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland
  • anow at: Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Université Paris Diderot, UMR 7154 CNRS, Paris, France

Abstract. In seismology, the signal is usually analysed for earthquake data, but earthquakes represent less than 1 % of continuous recording. The remaining data are considered as seismic noise and were for a long time ignored. Over the past decades, the analysis of seismic noise has constantly increased in popularity, and this has led to the development of new approaches and applications in geophysics. The study of continuous seismic records is now open to other disciplines, like geomorphology. The motion of mass at the Earth's surface generates seismic waves that are recorded by nearby seismometers and can be used to monitor mass transfer throughout the landscape. Surface processes vary in nature, mechanism, magnitude, space and time, and this variability can be observed in the seismic signals. This contribution gives an overview of the development and current opportunities for the seismic monitoring of geomorphic processes. We first describe the common principles of seismic signal monitoring and introduce time–frequency analysis for the purpose of identification and differentiation of surface processes. Second, we present techniques to detect, locate and quantify geomorphic events. Third, we review the diverse layout of seismic arrays and highlight their advantages and limitations for specific processes, like slope or channel activity. Finally, we illustrate all these characteristics with the analysis of seismic data acquired in a small debris-flow catchment where geomorphic events show interactions and feedbacks. Further developments must aim to fully understand the richness of the continuous seismic signals, to better quantify the geomorphic activity and to improve the performance of warning systems. Seismic monitoring may ultimately allow the continuous survey of erosion and transfer of sediments in the landscape on the scales of external forcing.

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