Characteristics of ambient seismic noise as a source for surface wave tomography

Yingjie Yang*, Michael H. Ritzwoller

*Corresponding author for this work

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Interstation cross correlations of ambient seismic noise from 1 year of continuous data at periods between 6 and 50 s are used to study the origin of the ambient noise using stations located in Europe, southern Africa, Asia, and three regions within North America. The signal-to-noise ratios (SNR) of Rayleigh waves for positive and negative correlation time lags at periods of 8, 14, 25 and 50 s are used to determine the azimuthal distribution of strong ambient noise sources. Ambient noise in both the primary (10-20 s) and secondary microseism bands (5-10 s) comes dominantly from the directions of relatively nearby coastlines with stronger noise occurring in the Northern Hemisphere in northern winter and in the Southern Hemisphere in southern winter, consistent with the hypothesis that oceanic microseisms are generating this noise. The observed differences in the directivity of noise in the primary and secondary microseism bands are the consequence of propagation and attenuation, rather than the location of generation. At intermediate and long periods (>20 s), there is much less seasonal variation in both signal strength and directivity. We argue that our results are explained most simply by near-coastal sources rather than deep ocean sources at all periods. Although the dominant ambient noise sources are distributed inhomogeneously in azimuth, strong ambient noise emerges from most directions when using recordings that are 1 year in duration. Simulations illustrate that this is what ensures the accuracy of the empirical Green's functions and ambient noise tomography.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberQ02008
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2008 by the American Geophysical Union. Originally published as Yang, Y., and M. H. Ritzwoller (2008), Characteristics of ambient seismic noise as a source for surface wave tomography, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 9, Q02008. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Ambient seismic noise
  • Cross correlations
  • Green's functions
  • Tomography.

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