Ocean wave height determined from inland seismometer data: Implications for investigating wave climate changes in the NE Pacific


  • Peter D. Bromirski,

  • Reinhard E. Flick,

  • Nicholas Graham


Knowing the wave climate along the California coast is vital from the perspectives of climatological change and planning shore protection measures. Buoy data indicate that the wave climate is very similar along much of the California coast. We show that elements of the wave climate can be accurately reconstructed using near-coastal inland broadband seismometer data. Such reconstructions are possible because swell approaching the coast generates pressure fluctuations that are locally transformed into seismic waves at the seafloor that propagate inland and are detectable by land-based seismometers. Buoy and seismometer data show that most of the microseism energy recorded inland near the coast is generated from wave events at nearby coastal locations. A site-specific, empirically derived seismic-to-wave transfer function is demonstrated to be applicable to seismic data from the same location for any year. These results suggest that ocean wave heights estimated from near-coastal broadband seismometer data are sufficiently reliable for monitoring the coastal wave height when buoy data are unavailable, provided that adequate simultaneous nearby buoy measurements are available to calibrate the seismometer data. The methodology presented here provides an important tool that allows the investigation of potential wave climate changes from reconstructions using archived seismic data collected since the 1930s.