Sensing Earth and environment dynamics by telecommunication fiber-optic sensors: An urban experiment in Pennsylvania, USA

Tieyuan Zhu, Junzhu Shen, Eileen R. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Continuous seismic monitoring of the Earth's near surface (top 100 m), especially with improved resolution and extent of data both in space and time, would yield more accurate insights about the effect of extreme-weather events (e.g., flooding or drought) and climate change on the Earth's surface and subsurface systems. However, continuous longterm seismic monitoring, especially in urban areas, remains challenging. We describe the Fiber Optic foR Environmental SEnsEing (FORESEE) project in Pennsylvania, USA, the first continuous-monitoring distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) fiber array in the eastern USA. This array is made up of nearly 5 km of pre-existing dark telecommunication fiber underneath the Pennsylvania State University campus. A major thrust of this experiment is the study of urban geohazard and hydrological systems through near-surface seismic monitoring. Here we detail the FORESEE experiment deployment and instrument calibration, and describe multiple observations of seismic sources in the first year. We calibrate the array by comparison to earthquake data from a nearby seismometer and to active-source geophone data. We observed a wide variety of seismic signatures in our DAS recordings: natural events (earthquakes and thunderstorms) and anthropogenic events (mining blasts, vehicles, music concerts and walking steps). Preliminary analysis of these signals suggests DAS has the capability to sense broadband vibrations and discriminate between seismic signatures of different quakes and anthropogenic sources. With the success of collecting 1 year of continuous DAS recordings, we conclude that DAS along with telecommunication fiber will potentially serve the purpose of continuous near-surface seismic monitoring in populated areas. copy; Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-235
Number of pages17
JournalSolid Earth
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 28 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Soil Science
  • Geophysics
  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Stratigraphy
  • Palaeontology


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