Tidal calibration of Plate Boundary Observatory borehole strainmeters: Roles of vertical and shear coupling



[1] A multicomponent borehole strainmeter directly measures changes in the diameter of its cylindrical housing at several azimuths. To transform these measurements to formation strains requires a calibration matrix, which must be estimated by analyzing the installed strainmeter's response to known strains. Typically, theoretical calculations of Earth tidal strains serve as the known strains. This paper carries out such an analysis for 12 Plate Boundary Observatory (PBO) borehole strainmeters, postulating that each of the strainmeters' four gauges responds (“couples”) to all three horizontal components of the formation strain tensor, as well as to vertical strain. Orientation corrections are also estimated. The fourth extensometer in each PBO strainmeter provides redundant information used to reduce the chance that coupling coefficients could be misleadingly fit to inappropriate theoretical tides. Satisfactory fits between observed and theoretically calculated tides were obtained for three PBO strainmeters in California, where the calculated tides are corroborated by other instrumentation, as well as for six strainmeters in Oregon and Washington, where no other instruments have ever recorded Earth tidal strain. Several strainmeters have unexpectedly large coupling coefficients for vertical strain, which increases the strainmeter's response to atmospheric pressure. Vertical coupling diminishes, or even changes the sign of, the apparent response to areal strain caused by Earth tides or deep Earth processes because near the free surface, vertical strains are opposite in sign to areal strain. Vertical coupling does not impair the shear strain response, however. PBO borehole strainmeters can provide calibrated shear strain time series of transient strain associated with tectonic or magmatic processes.