Articles | Volume 6, issue 2
Research article
09 May 2018
Research article |  | 09 May 2018

Seismic signature of turbulence during the 2017 Oroville Dam spillway erosion crisis

Phillip J. Goodling, Vedran Lekic, and Karen Prestegaard

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Cited articles

Barrière, J., Oth, A., Hostache, R., and Krein, A.: Bed load transport monitoring using seismic observations in a low-gradient rural gravel bed stream, Geophys. Res. Lett., 42, 2294–2301,, 2015. 
Bea, R. G.: Preliminary Root Causes Analysis of Failures of the Oroville Dam Gated Spillway, Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, University of California, Berkeley, 31, available at:, last access: 5 September 2017. 
Beck, J. L.: Weight-induced stresses and the recent seismicity at Lake Oroville, California, B. Seismol. Soc. Am., 66, 1121–1131, 1976. 
Berens, P.: CircStat: A MATLAB Toolbox for Circular Statistics, J. Stat. Softw., 31, 1–21,, 2009. 
Berkeley Digital Seismic Network (BDSN): UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory, Dataset,, 2014. 
Short summary
The Oroville Dam flood control spillway suffered catastrophic erosion damage in February 2017. We find that seismic waves recorded by a seismometer 2 km away contain information about the flow turbulence and damage location in the spillway. We show that enhanced turbulence due to spillway damage excites louder seismic waves at a given flow rate, which can be used to detect the onset and track the migration of erosion damage. The methods we use could be used to monitor other structures or rivers.