Quentin Brissaud – quentin@norsar.no
X (twitter): @QuentinBrissaud

Research Scientist, NORSAR, Kjeller, N/A, 2007, Norway

Sven Peter Näsholm, University of Oslo and NORSAR
Marouchka Froment, NORSAR
Antoine Turquet, NORSAR
Tina Kaschwich, NORSAR

Popular version of 1pPAb3 – Exploring a planet with infrasound: challenges in probing the subsurface and the atmosphere
Presented at the 186 ASA Meeting
Read the abstract at https://eppro02.ativ.me/web/index.php?page=IntHtml&project=ASASPRING24&id=3657997

–The research described in this Acoustics Lay Language Paper may not have yet been peer reviewed–

infrasoundLow frequency sound, called infrasound, can help us better understand our atmosphere and explore distant planetary atmospheres and interiors.

Low-frequency sound waves below 20 Hz, known as infrasound, are inaudible to the human ear. They can be generated by a variety of natural phenomena, including volcanoes, ocean waves, and earthquakes. These waves travel over large distances and can be recorded by instruments such as microbarometers, which are sensitive to small pressure variations. This data can give unique insight into the source of the infrasound and the properties of the media it traveled through, whether solid, oceanic, or atmospheric. In the future, infrasound data might be key to build more robust weather prediction models and understand the evolution of our solar system.

Infrasound has been used on Earth to monitor stratospheric winds, to analyze the characteristics of man-made explosions, and even to detect earthquakes. But its potential extends beyond our home planet. Infrasound waves generated by meteor impacts on Mars have provided insight into the planet’s shallow seismic velocities, as well as near-surface winds and temperatures. On Venus, recent research considers that balloons floating in its atmosphere, and recording infrasound waves, could be one of the few alternatives to detect “venusquakes” and explore its interior, since surface pressures and temperatures are too extreme for conventional instruments.

Sonification of sound generated by the Flores Sea earthquake as recorded by a balloon flying at 19 km altitude.

Until recently, it has been challenging to map infrasound signals to various planetary phenomena, including ocean waves, atmospheric winds, and planetary interiors. However, our research team and collaborators have made significant strides in this field, developing tools to unlock the potential of infrasound-based planetary research. We retrieve the connections between source and media properties, and sound signatures through 3 different techniques: (1) training neural networks to learn the complex relationships between observed waveforms and source and media characteristics, (2) perform large-scale numerical simulations of seismic and sound waves from earthquakes and explosions, and (3) incorporate knowledge about source and seismic media from adjacent fields such as geodynamics and atmospheric chemistry to inform our modeling work. Our recent work highlights the potential of infrasound-based inversions to predict high-altitude winds from the sound of ocean waves with machine learning, to map an earthquake’s mechanism to its local sound signature, and to assess the detectability of venusquakes from high-altitude balloons.

To ensure the long-term success of infrasound research, dedicated Earth missions will be crucial to collect new data, support the development of efficient global modeling tools, and create rigorous inversion frameworks suited to various planetary environments. Nevertheless, Infrasound research shows that tuning into a planet’s whisper unlocks crucial insights into its state and evolution.

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