Passive Seismic Monitoring of Natural and Induced Earthquakes: Case Studies, Future Directions and Socio-Economic Relevance

  • Marco BohnhoffEmail author
  • Georg Dresen
  • William L. Ellsworth
  • Hisao Ito
Part of the International Year of Planet Earth book series (IYPE)


An important discovery in crustal mechanics has been that the Earth’s crust is commonly stressed close to failure, even in tectonically quiet areas. As a result, small natural or man-made perturbations to the local stress field may trigger earthquakes. To understand these processes, Passive Seismic Monitoring (PSM) with seismometer arrays is a widely used technique that has been successfully applied to study seismicity at different magnitude levels ranging from acoustic emissions generated in the laboratory under controlled conditions, to seismicity induced by hydraulic stimulations in geological reservoirs, and up to great earthquakes occurring along plate boundaries. In all these environments the appropriate deployment of seismic sensors, i.e., directly on the rock sample, at the earth’s surface or in boreholes close to the seismic sources allows for the detection and location of brittle failure processes at sufficiently low magnitude-detection threshold and with adequate spatial resolution for further analysis. One principal aim is to develop an improved understanding of the physical processes occurring at the seismic source and their relationship to the host geologic environment. In this paper we review selected case studies and future directions of PSM efforts across a wide range of scales and environments. These include induced failure within small rock samples, hydrocarbon reservoirs, and natural seismicity at convergent and transform plate boundaries. Each example represents a milestone with regard to bridging the gap between laboratory-scale experiments under controlled boundary conditions and large-scale field studies. The common motivation for all studies is to refine the understanding of how earthquakes nucleate, how they proceed and how they interact in space and time. This is of special relevance at the larger end of the magnitude scale, i.e., for large devastating earthquakes due to their severe socio-economic impact.


Earthquakes Passive Seismic monitoring Borehole Seismology Crustal mechanics Physics of Faulting 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marco Bohnhoff
    • 1
    Email author
  • Georg Dresen
    • 2
  • William L. Ellsworth
    • 3
  • Hisao Ito
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of GeophysicsStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam, Deutsches GeoforschungsZentrum (GFZ)PotsdamGermany
  3. 3.United States Geological SurveyMenlo ParkUSA
  4. 4.Center for Deep Earth Exploration, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and TechnologyYokohama KanagawaJapan

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