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Simulation of High Frequency Seismic Waves generated by Rockfalls on Real Topography


IPGP - Îlot Cuvier


Soutenances de thèses


Julian Kuehnert (IPGP)

Sismologie (SIS)

Rockfall hazard has to be evaluated and monitored in order to prevent loss of life and infrastructure. In this regard it is important to create event catalogs and understand rockfall dynamics. Seismic waves can help for this purpose as they carry valuable information of the event. They are generated when rockfalls impact the ground and can be used to detect, classify and locate events. Beyond that, rockfall properties such as their volume and their dynamic behavior can be inferred. Yet, high frequency seismic signals (>1Hz) are poorly understood. This is because they are associated to complex seismic sources which are spatially distributed and can rapidly vary over time. On top of this, high frequency seismic waves are prone to be scattered and diffracted due to interactions with soil heterogeneities or surface topography. This thesis takes an important step forward to enhance understanding of high frequency rockfall seismic signals by simulating seismic wave propagation on domains with realistic velocity profiles and 3D surface topographies using the Spectral Element Method (SEM). The influence of the topography on the seismic wave field is investigated. It is found that topography induced amplification is substantially different between deep sources and sources located at the surface. This is because surface waves generated by shallow sources are exposed to constant scattering and diffraction when traveling along the surface. The energy decay along the surface is investigated for different velocity models and equations are derived to back-calculate the total seismic energy radiated by the source. This is of interest as the rockfall seismic energy is related to the rockfall volume. In order to account for topography effects, a correction factor is proposed which can be introduced in the energy calculation. Observed seismic signals generated by rockfall at Dolomieu crater on Piton de la Fournaise volcano, La Réunion, are analyzed. Synthetic seismograms are used to identify and interpret observed signals generated by single impacts. The influence of topography on the waveforms is demonstrated and the sensitivity on source location as well as source direction is evaluated. Signal characteristics such as amplitudes and frequency content are explained based on Hertz contact theory. Additionally, inter-station spectral ratios computed from rockfall seismic signals are shown to be characteristic of the source position. Comparison with simulated spectral ratios suggest that they are dominated by the propagation along the topography rather than the mechanism of the source. Based on these findings, a method is proposed for the localization of rockfalls using simulated inter-station energy ratios. The method is applied to localize rockfalls at Dolomieu crater. The implementation of the method involves a sliding time window which allows a straightforward application on continuous seismic signals. The potential of the method to monitor rockfall activity in real-time is emphasized.