SCIENCE: Illuminating seafloor faults and ocean dynamics with dark fiber distributed acoustic sensing

Nathaniel J. Lindsey, T. Craig Dowe, and Jonathan B. Ajo-Franklin


Distributed fiber-optic sensing technology coupled to existing subsea cables (dark fiber) allows observation of ocean and solid earth phenomena. We used an optical fiber from the cable supporting the Monterey Accelerated Research System during a 4-day maintenance period with a distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) instrument operating onshore, creating a ~10,000-component, 20-kilometer-long seismic array. Recordings of a minor earthquake wavefield identified multiple submarine fault zones. Ambient noise was dominated by shoaling ocean surface waves but also contained observations of in situ secondary microseism generation, post–low-tide bores, storm-induced sediment transport, infragravity waves, and breaking internal waves. DAS amplitudes in the microseism band tracked sea-state dynamics during a storm cycle in the northern Pacific. These observations highlight this method’s potential for marine geophysics.

doi: 10.1126/science.aay5881