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U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 84–657

Noise Analysis of the Seismic System Employed in the Northern and Southern California Seismic Nets

By J.P. Eaton

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (25.5 MB)Introduction

The seismic networks have been designed and operated to support recording on Develocorders (less than 40db dynamic range) and analog magnetic tape (about 50 db dynamic range). The principal analysis of the records has been based on Develocorder films; and background earth noise levels have been adjusted to be about 1 to 2 mm p-p on the film readers. Since the traces are separated by only 10 to 12 mm on the reader screen, they become hopelessly tangled when signal amplitudes on several adjacent traces exceed 10 to 20 mm p-p. Thus, the background noise level is hardly more than 20 db below the level of largest readable signals. The situation is somewhat better on tape playbacks, but the high level of background noise set to accomodate processing from film records effectively limits the range of maximum-signal to background-earth-noise on high gain channels to a little more than 30 db.

Introduction of the PDP 11/44 seismic data acquisition system has increased the potential dynamic range of recorded network signals to more than 60 db. To make use of this increased dynamic range we must evaluate the characteristics and performance of the seismic system. In particular, we must determine whether the electronic noise in the system is or can be made sufficiently low so that background earth noise levels can be lowered significantly to take advantage of the increased dynamic range of the digital recording system.

To come to grips with the complex problem of system noise, we have carried out a number of measurements and experiments to evaluate critical components of the system as well as to determine the noise characteristics of the system as a whole.

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For additional information:
Contact Information, Earthquake Science Center, Menlo Park Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
345 Middlefield Road, MS 977
Menlo Park, California 94025

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Suggested citation:

Eaton, J.P., 1984, Noise analysis of the seismic system employed in the northern and southern California seismic nets: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 84–657, 48 p. (Available at


I. Introduction

II. Overview of noise sources

III. Analysis of preamp noise versus combined modulator/discriminator noise

VI. Network-wide noise analysis - Dec 20, 1983

V. Analysis of noise on lo-gain stations - Dec. 20, 1983

VI. Analysis of system noise during the automatic calibrator cycle

VII. Summary and conclusions

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