In a groundbreaking study, an international team of scientists, led by Dr. Xin Liu from the University of Hong Kong, has introduced a new method called ambient noise differential adjoint tomography. This method utilizes a portable instrument called a seismometer to record the Earth’s natural vibrations, leading to significant advancements in various fields, including the discovery of water and oil resources, urban geologic hazard assessment, and early warning systems for tsunamis. Published in Nature Communications, this study has the potential to revolutionize our approach to important areas of research.

The conventional methods of exploring the presence of fluids within rocks, such as drilling expensive wells or conducting large-scale seismic surveys, have proven to be inefficient and environmentally unfriendly. However, with the introduction of ambient noise differential adjoint tomography, researchers can now create images containing valuable information about the fluids within rocks without the need for invasive techniques. This cost-effective and easy method opens up new possibilities for identifying water and oil resources in a more sustainable and efficient manner.

One of the significant findings of this study is the correlation between fluids within rocks and the occurrence of small earthquakes. By placing seismometers along the Los Angeles basin, the researchers discovered that rocks beneath the surface near the Newport-Inglewood Fault contain a significant amount of fluids. These fluids, present in tiny holes within the rocks, reduce friction along the fault plane, allowing the earthquake-causing rocks to slide past each other more easily. This finding provides valuable insights into the mechanics of earthquakes and could potentially improve early warning systems.

The introduction of ambient noise differential adjoint tomography has vast implications for assessing urban geologic hazards. In urban areas, a series of seismometers can be deployed to create detailed images of the ground, identifying regions with slow seismic wave velocity. These images provide crucial information about the locations of loose soil/sediments and fluid-bearing rocks, allowing researchers to better understand the potential risks associated with geological hazards. This information can greatly enhance urban safety measures and disaster preparedness.

The innovative method also extends its application to the deep ocean. By deploying Ocean Bottom Seismometers (OBS) on the seafloor, researchers can record background vibrations and create detailed images of the oceanic ground. These images reveal the presence of fluid-bearing rocks and help in understanding the water cycle beneath the seafloor. The information obtained from this method not only improves our understanding of the oceanic environment but also has the potential to contribute to sustainable environmental management practices.

The introduction of ambient noise differential adjoint tomography is a scientific breakthrough with significant potential in various fields. From revolutionizing resource exploration to enhancing urban safety measures and promoting sustainable environmental management practices, this method holds great promise. By providing cost-effective and non-invasive ways to visualize rocks with fluids, it offers a new path towards efficient resource utilization and better disaster preparedness. With this revolutionary approach, researchers can shape a better future for all of us.


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