Continuous catchment-scale monitoring of geomorphic processes with a 2-D seismological array

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Abstract

[1] Distributed activity of geomorphic processes with different spatiotemporal scales is hard to monitor in detail with conventional methods but might be detected with seismometers. From July to September 2010, we deployed 14 seismometers to evaluate the ability of a two-dimensional array with small interstation distances (11 km) to continuously monitor geomorphic processes in a mountain catchment (370 km2) in Taiwan. Spectral analysis of seismic records highlights different sources with high-frequency content (>1 Hz), consistent with hillslope and river processes. Using a common detection algorithm and a location technique based on the timing of seismic amplitude, we have located 314 near-surface events, most of which (69%) occurred during daily convective storms. Event activity was positively correlated with the precipitation intensity, but this relation was not uniform in the catchment. High-resolution satellite images and air photos did not show geomorphic change during the study, which did not have any episodes of extreme precipitation. A majority of events (61%) were collocated with preexisting geomorphic features (landslide scars, gullies) within the uncertainty on location (9% of interstation distance). The combination of event location and timing suggests a geomorphic source of recorded signals and most events had the seismic characteristics of rockfall, debris avalanches, or slides. Reactivation of prior erosion sites by such processes is difficult to detect with imagery, but can possibly be resolved by seismic monitoring. When proven, this approach will allow a spatially comprehensive survey of geomorphic activity at the catchment scale, with temporal detail sufficient to evaluate the exact (meteorological) conditions under which process events occur.

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