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Precise, three-dimensional seafloor geodetic deformation measurements using difference techniques


Crustal deformation on land can now be measured and monitored routinely and precisely using space geodetic techniques. The same is not true of the seafloor, which covers about 70 percent of the earth surface, and is critical in terms of plate tectonics, submarine volcanism, and earthquake mechanisms of plate boundary types. We develop new data processing strategies for quantifying crustal deformation at the ocean floor: single- and double-difference methods. Theoretically, the single difference method can eliminate systematic errors of long period, while the double difference method is able to almost completely eliminate all depth-dependent and spatialdependent systematic errors. The simulations have shown that the transponders on the seafloor and thus the deformation of the seafloor can be determined with the accuracy of one centimeter in the single point positioning mode. Since almost all systematic errors (of temporal or spatial nature) have been removed by the double difference operator, the double difference method has been simulated to be capable of determining the threedimensional, relative position between two transponders on the seafloor even at the accuracy of sub-centimeters by employing and accumulating small changes in geometry over time. While the surveying strategy employed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) requires the ship maintain station, our technique requires the ship to move freely. The SIO approach requires a seafloor array of at least three transponders and that the relative positions of the transponders be pre-determined. Our approach directly positions a single transponder or relative positions of transponders, and thus measures deformation unambiguously.


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Correspondence to Peiliang Xu.

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Xu, P., Ando, M. & Tadokoro, K. Precise, three-dimensional seafloor geodetic deformation measurements using difference techniques. Earth Planet Sp 57, 795–808 (2005).

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Key words

  • Crustal deformation
  • seafloor geodesy
  • geodynamics