Calibrated Absolute Seafloor Pressure Measurements for Geodesy in Cascadia

TitleCalibrated Absolute Seafloor Pressure Measurements for Geodesy in Cascadia
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsCook, MJ, Fredrickson, EK, Roland, EC, Sasagawa, GS, Schmidt, DA, Wilcock, WSD, Zumberge, MA
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Keywordsabsolute pressure, calibrated pressure, Cascadia subduction zone, marine geophysics, piston gauge calibrator, seafloor geodesy

The boundary between the overriding and subducting plates is locked along some portions of the Cascadia subduction zone. The extent and location of locking affects the potential size and frequency of great earthquakes in the region. Because much of the boundary is offshore, measurements on land are incapable of completely defining a locked zone in the up-dip region. Deformation models indicate that a record of seafloor height changes on the accretionary prism can reveal the extent of locking. To detect such changes, we have initiated a series of calibrated pressure measurements using an absolute self-calibrating pressure recorder. A piston-gauge calibrator under careful metrological considerations produces an absolutely known reference pressure to correct seafloor pressure observations to an absolute value. We report an accuracy of about 25 ppm of the water depth, or 0.02 kPa (0.2 cm equivalent) at 100 m to 0.8 kPa (8 cm equivalent) at 3,000 m. These campaign survey-style absolute pressure measurements on seven offshore benchmarks in a line extending 100 km westward from Newport, Oregon from 2014 to 2017 establish a long-term, sensor-independent time series that can, over decades, reveal the extent of vertical deformation and thus the extent of plate locking and place initial limits on rates of subsidence or uplift. Continued surveys spanning years could serve as calibration values for co-located or nearby continuous pressure records and provide useful information on possible crustal deformation rates, while epoch measurements spanning decades would provide further limits and additional insights on deformation.