Challenges in observational seismology

International Geophysics



Earthquake seismology became a quantitative scientific discipline after instruments were developed to record seismic waves in the late 19th century (Dewey and Byerly, 1969; Chapter 1 by Agnew). Earthquake seismology is essentially based on field observations. The great progress made in the past several decades was primarily due to increasingly plentiful and high-quality data that are readily distributed. Our ability to collect, process, and analyze earthquake data has been accelerated by advances in electronics, communications, computers, and software (see Chapter 85 edited by Snoke and Garcia-Fernandez).

Instrumental observation of earthquakes has been carried out for a little over 100 years by seismic stations and networks of various sizes, from local to global scales (see Chapter 87 edited by Lahr and van Eck). The observed data have been used, for example, (1) to compute the source parameters of earthquakes, (2) to determine the physical properties of the Earth's interior, (3) to test the theory of plate tectonics, (4) to map active faults, (5) to infer the nature of damaging ground shaking, and (6) to carry out seismic hazard analysis. Construction of a satisfactory theory of the earthquake process has not yet been achieved within the context of physical laws. Good progress, however, has been made in building a physical foundation of the earthquake source process, partly as a result of research directed toward earthquake prediction.

This chapter is intended for a general audience. Technical details are not given, but relevant references and chapters in this Handbook are referred to. The first part of this chapter presents a brief overview of the observational aspects of earthquake seismology, concentrating on instrumental observations of seismic waves generated by earthquakes (i.e., seismic monitoring), and readers are referred to Chapter 49 by Musson and Cecic for noninstrumental observations. A few key developments and practices are summarized by taking a general view, since many national and regional developments have been chronicled in national and institutional reports (see Chapter 79 edited by Kisslinger). In the latter part of this chapter, the nature of seismic monitoring and some challenges in observational seismology are discussed from a personal perspective. Comments of a technical or philosophical nature are given in the Notes at the end of the chapter, and they are referenced by superscript numbers in the text.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Challenges in observational seismology
Series title International Geophysics
DOI 10.1016/S0074-6142(02)80220-0
Volume 81
Issue A
Year Published 2002
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Description 13 p.
First page 269
Last page 281
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