Machine learning helps to accurately map the Earth’s interior


MIT researchers have used a neural network
to identify low-frequency seismic waves hidden in earthquake data. The technique may help scientists more accurately
map the Earth’s interior. Over the last century, scientists have developed
methods to map the structures within the Earth’s crust, in order to identify resources such
as oil reserves, geothermal sources, and, more recently, reservoirs where excess carbon
dioxide could potentially be sequestered. They do so by tracking seismic waves that
are produced naturally by earthquakes or artificially via explosives or underwater air guns. The way these waves bounce and scatter through
the Earth can give scientists an idea of the type of structures that lie beneath the surface. There is a narrow range of seismic waves — those
that occur at low frequencies of around 1 hertz — that could give scientists the clearest
picture of underground structures spanning wide distances. But these waves are often drowned out by Earth’s
noisy seismic hum, and are therefore difficult to pick up with current detectors. Specifically generating low-frequency waves
would require pumping in enormous amounts of energy. For these reasons, low-frequency seismic waves
have largely gone missing in human-generated seismic data. Now MIT researchers have come up with a machine
learning workaround to fill in this gap. In a paper appearing in the journal Geophysics,
they describe a method in which they trained a neural network on hundreds of different
simulated earthquakes. When the researchers presented the trained
network with only the high-frequency seismic waves produced from a new simulated earthquake,
the neural network was able to imitate the physics of wave propagation and accurately
estimate the quake’s missing low-frequency waves. The new method could allow researchers to
artificially synthesize the low-frequency waves that are hidden in seismic data, which
can then be used to more accurately map the Earth’s internal structures.

One Reply to “Machine learning helps to accurately map the Earth’s interior”

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