2022-2023 Science Planning Summary
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2022-2023 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Pilot Fiber Seismic Networks at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

Photo by Sheryl Seagraves, courtesy of the NSF/USAP Photo Library. Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
A-137-S Research Location(s): B2 Laboratory


Event Number:
NSF/OPP Award 2022920

Program Manager:
Dr. Vladimir Papitashvili

ASC POC/Implementer:
John Rand / Paul Sullivan / Sheryl Seagraves

Principal Investigator(s)

Mr. Zhongwen NMI Zhan
California Institute of Technology


Supporting Stations: South Pole Station
Research Locations: B2 Laboratory


This project will deploy a distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) system at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. DAS is an emerging technology that transforms a single optical fiber into a massively multichannel seismic array and provides a scalable and affordable way to deploy a dense seismic network. This project will convert at least 8 km of existing fiber optic cable into more than 8000 sensors to explore the potential of DAS as a breakthrough data engine for polar seismology. The DAS array will operate for about one year, allowing: (1) evaluation and calibration of the performance of the DAS technology in the extreme cold, very low noise (including during the exceptionally quiet austral winter) polar plateau environment; (2) recording and analysis of local ambient and transient signals from ice, anthropogenic signals, ocean microseism, atmospheric and other processes, as well as to study local, regional, and teleseismic tectonic events, and; (3) structural imaging of the firn, glacial ice, glacial bed, crust, and mantle, variously using active sources, ambient seismic noise, and natural icequake and earthquake events.

Field Season Overview

Two participants will deploy for ten days for installation, calibration, and training. Twelve small self-contained nodal seismometers will be installed for the DAS calibration along the cable route out to the South Pole Remote Earth Science and Seismological Observatory. The DAS observations will be calibrated by creating small man-made vibrations at intervals along the interrogated fibers by using a propelled weight drop. The installation of nodal seismometers and calibration will require snowmobile and PistenBully support. The nodal seismometers will be picked up at the end of this phase. The DAS unit will run autonomously for one year. Remote access via Internet for command and control of the unit, and the Station’s staff support for swapping disk drives as they fill up will be required. The interrogator and disk drives will be demobilized and packed by station staff the following season.

Deploying Team Members

  • Martin Karrenbach (Co-PI)
  • Zhongwen Zhan (PI)