Characterizing acoustic signals and searching for precursors during the laboratory seismic cycle using unsupervised machine learning

David C. Bolton, Chris Marone, Parisa Shokouhi, Jacques Rivière, Bertrand Rouet-Leduc, Claudia Hulbert, Paul A. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

2 Scopus citations


Recent work shows that machine learning (ML) can predict failure time and other aspects of laboratory earthquakes using the acoustic signal emanating from the fault zone. These approaches use supervised ML to construct a mapping between features of the acoustic signal and fault properties such as the instantaneous frictional state and time to failure. We build on this work by investigating the potential for unsupervised ML to identify patterns in the acoustic signal during the laboratory seismic cycle and precursors to labquakes. We use data from friction experiments showing repetitive stick-slip failure (the lab equivalent of earthquakes) conducted at constant normal stress (2.0 MPa) and constant shearing velocity (10 μm=s). Acoustic emission signals are recorded continuously throughout the experiment at 4 MHz using broadband piezoceramic sensors. Statistical features of the acoustic signal are used with unsupervised ML clustering algorithms to identify patterns (clusters) within the data. We find consistent trends and systematic transitions in the ML clusters throughout the seismic cycle, including some evidence for precursors to labquakes. Further work is needed to connect the ML clustering patterns to physical mechanisms of failure and estimates of the time to failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1088-1098
Number of pages11
JournalSeismological Research Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics

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