Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Storms and Their Seismic Signals: Can seismometers be used to study oceans?

Currently Active: 

Seismometers around the world observe a continuous background noise at frequencies between 0.05 and 0.5 Hz (2-20 second periods) that has been found to originate in the oceans.

When ocean surface waves travelling in opposite directions interact, they generate a pressure signal through the whole water column, which excites seismic surface and body waves at the seabed. Seismic records therefore reflect ocean conditions, but the exact relation between what is recorded by a seismometer and what is happening in the ocean is still a mystery. This project aims to establish what the signals are telling us about the oceans, and how they can be used to monitor changes in the ocean and atmosphere.

Locations of the 64 Cascadia Initiative OBS stations off the Californian coast
Figure 1

Data and Models

  • Cascadia Initiative OBS (ocean bottom seismometer) data from September 2012-May 2013
  • WaveWatchIII wave model


  • To locate regions of ocean which generate microseisms
  • To forward model microseism generation by combining a wave model with seismic propagation models. This will be used to characterise what variables the seismic signals are most sensitive to
  • To investigate deep vs. coastal microseism generation: How much of the microseismic energy is generated in the deep ocean as opposed to coastal regions? Can deep-ocean generated microseisms propagate across the continental shelf?

Implications and applications

  • A new proxy for the ocean gravity wave field  
  • Seismic observations to aid ocean wave modelling and forecasting, useful for shipping and maritime industries 
  • Long and continuous seismic records may reveal how frequency and intensity of storms has changed over time

Key Contacts

Jennifer Neale (PhD student, Geology and Geophysics)

Dr Nicholas Harmon (Geology and Geophysics)

Professor Meric Srokosz (NERC, MPOC)

Dr Christine Gommenginger (NERC, MPOC)

PhDs and Other Opportunities


Share this research project Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
Privacy Settings