A previously unreported type of seismic source in the firn layer of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet

Amanda C. Lough, C. Grace Barcheck, Douglas A. Wiens, Andrew Nyblade, Sridhar Anandakrishnan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


We identify a unique type of seismic source in the uppermost part of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet recorded by temporary broadband seismic arrays in East Antarctica. These sources, termed "firnquakes," are characterized by dispersed surface wave trains with frequencies of 1-10 Hz detectable at distances up to 1000 km. Events show strong dispersed Rayleigh wave trains and an absence of observable body wave arrivals; most events also show weaker Love waves. Initial events were discovered by standard detection schemes; additional events were then detected with a correlation scanner using the initial arrivals as templates. We locate sources by determining the L2 misfit for a grid of potential source locations using Rayleigh wave arrival times and polarization directions. We then perform a multiple-filter analysis to calculate the Rayleigh wave group velocity dispersion and invert the group velocity for shear velocity structure. The resulting velocity structure is used as an input model to calculate synthetic seismograms. Inverting the dispersion curves yields ice velocity structures consistent with a low-velocity firn layer ~100 m thick and show that velocity structure is laterally variable. The absence of observable body wave phases and the relative amplitudes of Rayleigh waves and noise constrain the source depth to be less than 20 m. The presence of Love waves for most events suggests the source is not isotropic. We propose the events are linked to the formation of small crevasses in the firn, and several events correlate with shallow crevasse fields mapped in satellite imagery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2237-2252
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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