Scattering attenuation profile of the Moon: Implications for shallow moonquakes and the structure of the megaregolith
We report measurements of the attenuation of short period seismic waves in the Moon based on the quantitative analysis of envelope records of lunar quakes. Our dataset consists of waveforms corresponding to 62 events, including artificial and natural impacts, shallow moonquakes and deep moonquakes, recorded by the four seismometers deployed during Apollo missions 12, 14, 15 and 16. To quantify attenuation and distinguish between elastic (scattering) and inelastic (absorption) mechanisms we measure the time of arrival of the maximum of energy tmax and the coda quality factor Qc . The former is controlled by both scattering and absorption, while the latter is an excellent proxy for absorption. Consistent with the strong broadening of seismogram envelopes in the Moon, we employ diffusion theory in spherical geometry to model the propagation of seismic energy in depth-dependent scattering and absorbing media. To minimize the misfit between predicted and observed tmax for deep moonquakes and impacts, we employ a genetic algorithm and explore a large number of depth-dependent attenuation models quantified by the scattering quality factor Qsc or equivalently the wave diffusivity D, and the absorption quality factor Qi . The scattering and absorption profiles that best fit the data display very strong scattering attenuation (Qsc ≤ 10) or equivalently very low wave diffusivity (D ≈ 2 km2/s) in the first 10 km of the Moon. These values correspond to the most heterogeneous regions on Earth, namely volcanic areas. Below this surficial layer, the diffusivity rises very slowly up to a depth of approximately 80 km where Qsc and D exhibit an abrupt increase of about one order of magnitude. Below 100 km depth, Qsc increases rapidly up to approximately 2000 at a depth of about 150 km, a value similar to the one found in the Earth's mantle. By contrast, the absorption quality factor on the Moon Qi ≈ 2400 is about one order or magnitude larger than on Earth. Our results suggest the existence of an approximately 100 km thick megaregolith, which is much larger than what was previously thought. The rapid decrease of scattering attenuation below this depth is compatible with crack healing through viscoelastic mechanisms. Using our best attenuation model, we invert for the depth of shallow moonquakes based on the observed variation of tmax with epicentral distance. On average, they are found to originate from a depth of about 50 km ± 20 km, which suggests that these earthquakes are caused by the failure of deep faults in the brittle part of the Moon.