Comparison between low-cost and traditional MEMS accelerometers: a case study from the M7.1 Darfield, New Zealand, aftershock deployment

Elizabeth S. Cochran, Jesse F. Lawrence, Anna Kaiser, Bill Fry, Angela Chung, Carl Christensen


Recent advances in micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) sensing and distributed computing techniques have enabled the development of low-cost, rapidly deployed dense seismic networks. The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) uses triaxial MEMS accelerometers installed in homes and businesses to record moderate to large earthquakes. Real-time accelerations are monitored and information is transferred to a central server using open-source, distributed computing software installed on participating computers. Following the September 3, 2010, Mw 7.1 Darfield, New Zealand, earthquake, 192 QCN stations were installed in a dense array in the city of Christchurch and the surrounding region to record the on-going aftershock sequence. Here, we compare the ground motions recorded by QCN accelerometers with GeoNet strong-motion instruments to verify whether low-cost MEMS accelerometers can provide reliable ground-motion information in network-scale deployments. We find that observed PGA and PGV amplitudes and RMS scatter are comparable between the GeoNet and QCN observations. Closely spaced stations provide similar acceleration, velocity, and displacement time series and computed response spectra are also highly correlated, with correlation coefficients above 0.94.


Seismology Instruments and techniques, Ground Motion, Seismic Risk, Seismological Data, Citizen Science

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Published by INGV, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia - ISSN:  2037-416X