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Sensitivity of earthquake source inversions to atmospheric noise and corrections of InSAR data

Chelsea P. Scott, & Rowena B. Lohman

Published May 30, 2016, SCEC Contribution #7222

Tropospheric phase delays pose a major challenge to InSAR (interferometric synthetic aperture radar)-based studies of tectonic deformation. One approach to the mitigation of effects from tropospheric noise is the application of elevation-dependent corrections based on empirical fits between elevation and interferometric phase. We quantify the effects of corrections with a range of complexity on inferred earthquake source parameters using synthetic interferograms with known atmospheric characteristics. We infer statistical properties of the stratified component of the atmosphere using pressure, temperature, and water vapor data from the North America Regional Reanalysis model over our region of interest in the Basin and Range province of the western United States. The statistics of the simulated atmospheric turbulence are estimated from InSAR and Global Positioning System data. We demonstrate potentially significant improvements in the precision of earthquake magnitude, depth, and dip estimates for several synthetic earthquake focal mechanisms following a correction for spatially variable atmospheric characteristics, relative to cases where the correction is based on a uniform delay versus elevation relationship or where no correction is applied. We apply our approach to the 1992 M5.6 Little Skull Mountain, Nevada, earthquake and demonstrate that the earthquake source parameter error bounds decrease in size after applying the atmospheric corrections. Our approach for evaluating the impact of atmospheric noise on inferred fault parameters is easily adaptable to other regions and source mechanisms.

Scott, C. P., & Lohman, R. B. (2016). Sensitivity of earthquake source inversions to atmospheric noise and corrections of InSAR data. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 121(5), 4031-4044. doi: 10.1002/2016JB012969.