AACSE:  The Alaska Amphibious Community Seismic Experiment


North America’s largest recorded earthquakes and largest documented volcanic eruptions both take place in southwest Alaska. A major shoreline-crossing community seismic experiment will commence in 2018, focused on the Alaska Peninsula subduction zone. Alaska is a GeoPRISMS primary site and current EarthScope target. The deployment is augmented by deployment of EarthScope Transportable Array (TA) seismic stations, earthquake and volcanic monitoring networks, and the recent development of a large pool of ocean bottom seismographs (OBSs). Together, these resource provide a unique opportunity to advance understanding of Alaska and subduction processes generally.

AACSE collects seismic data remotely onshore and offshore, all of which will be freely released to the community as rapidly as possible. The array includes 75  broadband OBSs and 30 land broadband sensors, recording for 15 months beginning May-June 2018. The array covers a broad area that spans the incoming plate, the megathrust and volcanic arc to the distal backarc, and includes a dense transect in the Kodiak/Katmai region. When integrated with the TA, the array extends 1500 km from incoming plate to the Arctic coast and spans 700 km along strike. The OBSs include 20 shielded sensors for deployment in shallow water. Many OBSs include absolute pressure gauges to capture possible slow slip events, while five OBSs and six land sites will include accelerometers to record large local earthquakes without clipping.

This web site is under construction!  A map of the current deployment plan can be found on the link below, and a detailed deployment plan will be forthcoming. The project is intended to help grow the seismological community, and includes opportunities to sail on OBS cruises and short courses for undergraduates – details coming soon!  Feel free to contact members of the PI team for more information.

 icon-chevron-right Draft deployment plan (PDF)

 icon-chevron-right Deployment map

Draft deployment planPI teamAnnouncementDocumentsWebinar

Alaska Amphibious Community Experiment (AACE)
Draft plan and request for public comment, June 30, 2016

aaace_map_28june2016A proposal for a community amphibious seismological experiment in Alaska is being prepared for the GeoPRISMS deadline, to address high-priority scientific problems across the Alaska margin. The plan addresses the high scientific priorities of the Amphibious Array Futures Workshop report as they address the GeoPRISMS and EarthScope Science plans in a region of great earthquakes and abundant volcanism, as outlined on the project web page. The PI team is listed there as well.

The plan presented here attempts to address these scientific priorities within the framework outlined in the March 2016 Dear Colleague Letter (NSF-16061) inviting proposals for such an experiment. We outline the draft deployment plan and rationale below and on the accompanying deployment map. This community experiment proposal is due at the July 26, 2016 GeoPRISMS deadline. At present we are seeking cost estimates from OBSIP on various components, and may adjust the plan somewhat depending on those estimates.

In keeping with the community nature of this project we are now soliciting community feedback, through July 10, 2016 at which time we will finalize the budgets and proposal. Send your feedback to the form on the project web page, under Leave A Reply. All feedback comments will be publically posted to this web page shortly after posting. If you wish to keep your comments confidential, please indicate that clearly at the beginning of your comment text and the moderator will communicate your comment to the PI group. Please use the web page mechanism for any comments to the plan rather than emailing the PI’s directly.

We do not expect to be able to deploy significantly more stations than described below, so it is most valuable to receive input about the particular choices of deployment scheme. The main limitations to keep in mind are the small number of instruments (25) available for deployment in shallow water (<200 m), the importance of integration with the TA described in the Dear Colleague Letter, and the importance of accomplishing objectives in a single 1-1.5 year deployment. We are particularly interested in thoughts about tradeoff between areal coverage and station density, for example over the thrust zone or in the outer rise.

Some of the major design criteria include:

  • Sampling of the megathrust at sufficient density to locate thrust-zone seismicity;
  • Sampling across major segment boundaries capturing both locked and creeping sections of the megathrust;
  • Staggered transects in at two locations with contrasting inputs and megathrust behavior that allow imaging of the entire subduction system from outer rise to far backarc;
  • Coverage of the outer rise sufficient to image serpentinization, e.g. via ambient noise;
  • Optimize ability to integrate with existing data sets, for example active-source lines.

The deployment plan is outlined as follows.

  • The experiment is limited to a single deployment to minimize costs and number of support cruises, covering two consecutive summers and the intervening winter, starting spring 2018 when ships become available.
  • Only 25 instruments would be capable of operating in shallow (<200m) water, using existing Trawl Resistant Mount instruments and modifying a limited number of deep-water instruments.
  • The experiment is concurrent with the Alaska Transportable Array (TA) and maximizes integrated use of TA instruments, so naturally focuses on the easternmost part of the subduction system. A transect crossing Kodiak and Katmai nicely integrates with onland TA stations 1000 km behind the arc. A transect near the creeping fault near the Shumagin Islands utilizes several Alaska Peninsula and island stations, and at low resolution benefits from stations on the east coast of the Bering Sea.
  • We anticipate being able to deploy 85 broadband OBS’s, including the 25 TRM’s. Where possible those near the thrust zone may include absolute pressure gages for recording potential creep events and on-scale recording of moderate-to-large earthquakes.
  • We are exploring the use of short-period OBS’s in the deep-water parts of the forearc. Should they result in significant cost savings, we could deploy ten in this region in place of five of the deep-water OBS’s.
  • We are exploring the costs of a limited number of accelerometers added to OBS’s.
  • On shore we would deploy a limited number of broadband stations, particularly along the two primary transects on Kodiak, across and north of the Katmai volcanic field, and perhaps near the Alaska Peninsula. To control costs and logistical uncertainty all stations should be reachable by plane or boat; helicopters will not be used due to cost and logistical uncertainty in Aleutian weather.
  • The land station geometry is notional at present, while access and permissions are being evaluated.

We are envisioning a series of educational opportunities as well, including open applications for participation in cruises and onshore fieldwork, a data-oriented post-cruise short course for scientists new to these data types, outreach to communities within the deployment region, and a web page with regular updates on field progress. We welcome suggestions for maximizing the broader impacts of this program.

The attached map shows stations, color-coded by type, as indicated by the map legend.

PI team for the Alaska Amphibious Community Experiment proposal:
Geoff Abers (Cornell University, abers@cornell.edu)
Douglas Wiens (Washington University in St Louis, doug@wustl.edu)
Susan Schwartz (UC Santa Cruz, syschwar@ucsc.edu)
Emily C. Roland (University of Washington, eroland@uw.edu)
Anne Sheehan (University of Colorado Boulder, anne.sheehan@colorado.edu)
Aubreya Adams (Colgate University, aadams@colgate.edu)
Donna Shillington (LDEO, Columbia University, djs@ldeo.columbia.edu)
Spahr Webb (LDEO, Columbia University, scw@ldeo.columbia.edu)
Peter Haeussler (USGS, pheuslr@usgs.gov)
Lindsay Worthington (University of New Mexico, lworthington@unm.edu)

On March 16, NSF released a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL; NSF16-061) encouraging proposals for community-driven shoreline-crossing seismological arrays along the Alaska subduction margin. The concept follows directly from the success of the Cascadia Initiative community experiment, and is targeted toward subduction-related problems of relevance to GeoPRISMS and EarthScope science plans. The Alaska experiment would take advantage of the Alaska component of the Earthscope Transportable Array currently being deployed, in a region of great earthquakes and abundant volcanism. A workshop in October, 2014 provided scientific rationale for such successors to the Cascadia Amphibious Array, as outlined in a report released in February 2015. Much of that report emphasized the seismogenic megathrust and volatile cycling through the subduction factory as the two major science targets that require broad, shoreline-crossing observations in subduction zones. Both targets could be optimally addressed by studies of the Alaska margin. The DCL specifically invites community experiment proposals to be submitted to the July 15, 2016 GeoPRISMS deadline.

In response to the DCL, many of the 2015 Amphibious Array Report authors have formed an ad hoc steering committee to nucleate a community proposal to deploy onshore and offshore seismometers across the Alaska Margin. The proposed community experiment would focus on the regions off the Alaska Peninsula and farther east, where the on-land Transportable Array exists, extending onshore and offshore a far as necessary to achieve primary scientific goals. We are also offering to serve as a clearinghouse for parallel submissions for other sorts of observations that could be well integrated with the Seismic Array. The DCL and a subsequent FAQ encourages one 15-18 month OBS deployment beginning in summer 2018 that focuses on seismic observations. Two such deployments might also be considered if required to attain specific scientific goals. Concurrent with the OBS deployment, we anticipate a densification of on-land seismometers to supplement the TA. No restriction on the number of land or OBS instruments exists beyond what is available in the pool; the OBS pool includes of 20 trawl-resistant seismometers that can be deployed in shallow water (http://www.obsip.org/).

To begin this effort, and make this an open process, we are taking several steps:

  • A webinar has been scheduled for April 25, 2016 to introduce the community to the exciting scientific opportunities that this DCL offers and to outline general strategies for achieving them. The video of the webinar is now available on Youtube.
  • Ideas for specific deployment strategies are being solicited. A web-based form (see tab form) provides an easy mechanism for communicating science targets and deployment plans. After some review, submissions are likely to be posted in a manner accessible from this web page.
  • Volunteers interested in joining the PI team are requested. This web page provides a place to submit a statement of interest, and upload a bio. Following the DCL, PI’s will be supported for participation in data collection only and not for data analysis through this mechanism, although scientists are encouraged to write separate proposals for subsequent data analysis.

This is an exciting opportunity to collect what should be one of the seminal data sets from an active subduction zone.

A webinar (April 25, 2016) introduced the community to the exciting scientific opportunities that this DCL offers and to outline general strategies for achieving them. Watch the record of the webinar below.

 icon-download Download the slides of the webinar (PDF, 8Mb)

Presenters: Susan Schwartz, Geoff Abers, Emily Roland, Rob Evans, Doug Wiens, Jeff Freymueller


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