Comparing Tiltmeters for Crustal Deformation Measurement - A Preliminary Report

Wyatt, F, Bilham R, Beavan J, Sylvester AG, Owen T, Harvey A, Macdonald C, Jackson DD, Agnew DC.  1984.  Comparing Tiltmeters for Crustal Deformation Measurement - A Preliminary Report. Geophysical Research Letters. 11:963-966.


A collection of high-precision tiltmeters is being operated at Piñon Flat Observatory, southern California, both to compare instruments and to measure tectonic deformation. We report on 1.2 years of data from four of these: two Michelson-Gale long fluid tiltmeters, one long center-pressure tiltmeter, and a shallow borehole tiltmeter. The three long-base instruments are all located on the same baseline, with a precise leveling line running between their end-monuments. At nontidal frequencies, only the two Michelson-Gale instruments show some coherence (γ² = .3 for periods of 2 to 4 days), while the center-pressure instrument is correlated with air temperature at periods from a few days to a few weeks. The most stable tilt record shows a secular rate of 0.28 µrad/a, which may be real. Over much longer times, leveling to specially stabilized benchmarks should confirm this. Comparing instruments has identified more and less successful measurement techniques; it appears that low-noise data will most probably be produced only by relatively complex and expensive instruments, though even for these, the operating costs over any reasonable lifetime will exceed the capital cost. Even the best existing sensors must be improved to measure continuous tectonic motions.