On the Detection Capabilities of Underwater Distributed Acoustic Sensing

Itzhak Lior*, Anthony Sladen, Diane Rivet, Jean Paul Ampuero, Yann Hello, Carlos Becerril, Hugo F. Martins, Patrick Lamare, Camille Jestin, Stavroula Tsagkli, Christos Markou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


The novel technique of distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) holds great potential for underwater seismology by transforming standard telecommunication cables, such as those currently traversing various regions of the world’s oceans, into dense arrays of seismo-acoustic sensors. To harness these measurements for seismic monitoring, the ability to record transient ground deformations is investigated by analyzing ambient noise, earthquakes, and their associated phase velocities, on DAS records from three dark fibers in the Mediterranean Sea. Recording quality varies dramatically along the fibers and is strongly correlated with the bathymetry and the apparent phase velocities of recorded waves. Apparent velocities are determined for several well-recorded earthquakes and used to convert DAS S-wave strain spectra to ground motion spectra. Excellent agreement is found between the spectra of nearby underwater and on-land seismometers and DAS converted spectra, when the latter are corrected for site effects. Apparent velocities greatly affect the ability to detect seismic deformations: for the same ground motions, slower waves induce higher strains and thus are more favorably detected than fast waves. The effect of apparent velocity on the ability to detect seismic phases, quantified by expected signal-to-noise ratios, is investigated by comparing signal amplitudes predicted by an earthquake model to recorded noise levels. DAS detection capabilities on underwater fibers are found to be similar to those of nearby broadband sensors, and superior to those of on-land fiber segments, owing to lower velocities at the ocean-bottom. The results demonstrate the great potential of underwater DAS for seismic monitoring and earthquake early warning.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere2020JB020925
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


  • ambient noise
  • distributed acoustic sensing
  • earthquake seismology
  • ocean-bottom seismology
  • signal to noise
  • strain measurements


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