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Seismic Detection of Oceanic Internal Gravity Waves from Terrestrial Observations
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  • Heather R Shaddox,
  • Emily E Brodsky,
  • Kristen A. Davis,
  • Steven Richard Ramp
Heather R Shaddox
University of California, Santa Cruz

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Emily E Brodsky
University of California, Santa Cruz
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Kristen A. Davis
University of California, Irvine
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Steven Richard Ramp
Soliton Oceans Services, LLC
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Oceanic internal gravity waves propagate along density stratification within the water column and are ubiquitous. They can propagate thousands of kilometers before breaking in shoaling bathymetry and the ensuing turbulent mixing affects coastal processes and climate feedbacks. Despite their importance, internal waves are intrinsically difficult to detect as they result in only minor amplitude deflection of the sea surface; the need for global detection and long time series of internal waves motivates a search for geophysical detection methods. The pressure coupling of a propagating internal wave with the sloping seafloor provides a potential mechanism to generate seismically observable signals. We use data from the South China Sea where exceptional oceanographic and satellite time series are available for comparison to identify internal wave signals in an onshore passive seismic dataset for the first time. We analyze potential seismic signals on broadband seismometers in the context of corroborating oceanographic and satellite data available near Dongsha Atoll in May-June 2019 and find a promising correlation between transient seismic tilt signals and internal wave arrivals and collisions in oceanic and satellite data. It appears that we have successfully detected oceanic internal waves using a terrestrial seismometer. This initial detection suggests that the seismic detection and amplitude determination of oceanic internal waves is possible and can potentially be used to expand the historical record by capitalizing on the existing terrestrial seismic network.