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REFRACTION SEISMIC EQUIPMENT AND PROCEDURES

Refraction seismic surveys are performed in general conformance with the guidelines presented in ASTM
D5777-95 Standard Guide for Using the Seismic Refraction Method for Subsurface Investigation for refraction
surveys using compression waves (p-waves). ASTM D5777 does not address shear wave (s-wave) surveys;
standard practice is followed for refraction surveys using s-waves. In some investigations, such as seeking
and tracing earth fissures or other significant discontinuities (Rucker and Keaton, 1998), non-standard
procedures and analyses, such as signal amplitude analysis, are used as part of the investigation process.
Seismic Equipment - Refraction seismic surveys are performed using a Geometrics Smartseis SE-12 or SE24 signal enhancement seismograph. These instruments have the capability to simultaneously record 12 or
24 channels of geophone data and produce hard copies of that data. The Smartseis also has the capability of
digitally storing geophone data. Signal enhancement capability permits the use of a sledgehammer as the
seismic energy source. A timing sensor is attached to the hammer, and for p-waves, a metal plate is set
securely on the ground surface and struck. Generating horizontally polarized s-waves typically involves
setting the plate against the end of a wooden plank or railroad tie oriented perpendicular to the axis of the
geophone array and striking with a horizontal motion of the sledgehammer. A truck is usually driven onto the
plank or tie to effectively couple the plank or tie to the ground.
Because of the signal enhancement capability, signals from several or many strikes can be added together to
increase the total signal available relative to noise to obtain the seismic record. Although explosives can also
be used as a p-wave seismic energy source, a sledgehammer does not require licenses or permits, or involve
special limitations, regulations and liabilities. Explosive energy sources may be needed for long geophone
arrays. Geophone cables with 12 geophone takeouts at 10-foot, 25-foot or 20-meter spacings are presently
used. Vertical geophones are used to obtain p-wave data and horizontal geophones are used to obtain swave data. The seismograph system is extremely portable. In areas where vehicular access is not possible,
the equipment can be mobilized by various means, including backpacking, packhorse, helicopter and canoe.
Field Procedures - The field operations are directed by our experienced engineer or geologist, who operates
the equipment, prepares the records and examines the data in the field. Refraction seismic lines are generally
laid out using the standard spacings on the geophone cables. A maximum depth of investigation of about 75
to 100 feet may be possible using a 300-foot array. For shorter lines with improved near-surface resolution,
10-foot spacings between geophones with a 120-foot array have a maximum depth of investigation of about
30 to 40 feet, and with a 240-foot array have a maximum depth of investigation of about 60 to 80 feet. Other
geophone spacings can also be used. To improve the resolution of near-surface interfaces, energy source
positions generally are set at 12.5 feet from the ends of a 25-foot spacing geophone array or at 5 feet from the
ends of a 10-foot geophone spacing array. Several shots locations are utilized along the length of an array.
When three shots are obtained, there is a foreshot and a backshot at the array ends and a midshot at the
array center. The midshot is usually placed midway between the two centermost geophones. When five
shots are obtained, the additional shotpoints are located midway between the foreshot-midshot and the
midshot-backshot. For 240-foot 24-channel arrays, shotpoints are arrayed at 30-foot intervals along the array.
These multiple shot points permit interpretation of near-surface interfaces at various locations along the array
as well as near the endpoints for variable subsurface profiles, and permits more refined overall interpretations
of shallow and mid-depth subsurface velocities and interfaces. In cases when both enhanced depth of
investigation and improved shallow resolution are needed, multiple geophone arrays are completed end to end
and combined into longer composite geophone arrays with greater depths of investigation. Additional energy
shotpoints are then, at a minimum, performed at the midpoint and far endpoint of each adjacent geophone
array to provide seismic energy travel path coverage over the extended array.
Surface wave data is also typically collected for each seismic line setup and interpreted for vertical shear wave
profiles using the Refraction Microtremor method. This procedure is described separately. To facilitate the
collection of low frequency surface wave data, 4.5 Hz geophones are typically used for surface seismic work.

and several runs may need to be made to obtain stable. Refraction seismic data interpretation using optimization is performed using the SeisOpt2D (presently Version 4. H. Poland Symposium on Land Subsidence. Nevada.C. and can provide excellent interpretations of near surface layer depths and velocities. and print out time-distance plots and depth interpretations. Energy source and geophone receiver locations and elevations.L. 8. optimization methods provides two separate interpretations with complimentary strengths and cross-checking capability.. Special Publication No. thus providing quality control on the depths to which the interpretation can be relied upon. Locations and other notes are made on site maps and in notebooks as appropriate. very large grids containing small elements may become unstable. S-wave data are also recorded when dynamic subsurface material properties are desired. Minneapolis. References: Mooney. At the present time. Field notes. Belmont.W. Interpretations are then completed manually to produce a final interpreted geologic profile and layer depths. Once a robust interpretation has been obtained. Multiple seismic lines combined end to end into a longer composite line can be effectively interpreted using this software. including line number and orientation. Edited by Borchers. p. with larger grids containing smaller elements providing greater potential resolution. These interpretation methods are applied as appropriate to a particular project. Interpretation .M. . An s-wave arrival is verified by obtained two sets of horizontal data that are 180 degrees out of phase. 1999-2007. J. Hard copy printouts of all field data are made and inspected as the information is collected. when appropriate. 1973. Rucker. It is simple. Minnesota. Optimization provides a continuously variable velocity interpretation through a discrete grid. Star Publishing Company. and Keaton. This method is used for interpretations of up to three layers. the intercept time method (ITM) and an optimization software routine based on finite difference optimization software. Model grid dimensions and element sizes are selected. L. can be performed with a calculator. It is considered that more than three layers cannot be effectively interpreted using twelve geophone data points. Interpretations using optimization also indicate zones where interpretation has occurred. M.000) iterations. ITM breaks an interpretation into several distinct layers. Engineering Seismology Using Refraction Methods. and first arrival travel times are optimized through a process of repeated (typically 10. Initial first arrival picks are made in the field and array endpoint arrival times are checked for immediate data adequacy verification as part of the quality control process. Tracing an Earth Fissure Using Seismic-Refraction Methods with Physical Verification. two interpretation methods are being used. and first arrival times are entered into the software package. California. topographic variations and other notes as appropriate are made on the hard copy printout..REFRACTION SEISMIC EQUIPMENT AND PROCEDURES (Cont. 207-216. of Reno.L. 1998. Refraction seismic data interpretation using the intercept time method is detailed by Mooney (1973). However.000 to 100.Although preliminary or quality control initial refraction seismic data interpretations may sometimes be performed in the field. the discrete grid used by optimization results in a low resolution near surface interpretation. J. the resulting seismic velocity profile is printed out with varying colors indicating the interpreted velocities.0) software package by Optim. in Land Subsidence Case Studies and Current Research: Proceedings of the Dr. The phase reversal is obtained by either reversing the horizontal geophone orientation or reversing the hammer impact direction. robust interpretations. Joseph F. Association of Engineering Geologists. Inc. A personal computer spreadsheet is used to perform the necessary calculations to obtain depths and layer velocities.. The combination of both ITM and.R. full interpretations are completed in the office..) P-wave data are recorded for general exploration work. Bison Instruments. However..

poor and none. Improved seismic methods include the use of 5 shotpoints along a 120-foot seismic line at 30-foot intervals (10-foot geophone spacing) and the introduction of surface wave data collection for ReMi as an additional means of empirically evaluating seismic amplitude attenuation. including an earth fissure. Continuing experience has modified the empirical interpretations somewhat as the field seismic methods have evolved and additional subsurface conditions have been encountered and interpreted. 1967. tempered with engineering judgment. The presence of a velocity reversal condition in the subsurface can generate seismic anomalies that could easily be confused with earth fissure-type seismic anomalies. Sherwood. Examples of combined seismic refraction and refraction microtremor interpretation under such velocity reversal conditions are discussed by Rucker (2006). Arizona . 1967). The inclusion of a distinct lateral reduction in seismic velocity is now also included in the interpretation of a weak to possible seismic anomaly. Vertical s-wave profiles and signal attenuation patterns that repeat at the same apparent distance from the shotpoints across multiple shot trends can help to discriminate between a relatively thin cemented horizon and a significant discrete anomaly. about 5 to 10 db per wavelength when the layer is less than about one-half wavelength in thickness. Inc Tempe. interpreting and verifying buried (paleo-) stream channels and collecting data across observed surface desiccation cracks typical of areas with giant polygonal desiccation features.M. has further improved seismic anomaly detection as less overlap of adjacent seismic lines is required. Seismic Anomaly Traces . or by cycle skipping… A good indication is given by an amplitude ratio in excess of about 3 for adjacent geophones and 2 (6 db) for equidistant geophones… A poor indication has a lower amplitude ratio. Additional subsurface conditions include encountering. using test pits and trenches. and then verified and evaluated. has been presented in the literature (O’Brien. An excellent indication is given by an amplitude ratio in excess of about 4 (12 db) for adjacent geophones and 3 for equidistant geophones. The introduction of 24channel seismic equipment. Rucker Page -1 . which may or may not be due to isolated attenuation… Absence of attenuation results in an interpretation that no fissure is present. Typically.May 2011 Revision INTERPRETATION AND ANALYSIS OF SEISMIC ANOMALY TRACES An initial definition and description of seismic anomalies as used in 1994 when the method was developed and applied to earth fissure detecting and tracing in the field is presented in Rucker and Keaton (1998) as follows: Qualitative interpretation of isolated attenuation data is separated into four semi-empirical categories: excellent. using 9 shotpoints at 30 foot shotpoint intervals and 240-foot arrays at 10-foot geophone spacing. may be considered as follows. such velocity reversal-induced seismic signal attenuation and apparent cycle skipping can be generated due to subsurface conditions involving a cemented or cohesive horizon overlying a less cemented or uncemented (or cohesionless) horizon. Given these considerations. a current definition of seismic anomalies in native ground and embankments. good. Very rapid attenuation of p-wave refraction signals in thin high velocity layers.General Description and Procedures Interpretation and Analysis of Seismic Anomaly Traces AMEC Earth & Environmental.L.

Inc Tempe.L. mid-shot and back-shot). Multiple energy points along each seismic line provide multiple opportunities to interpret the potential for anomalous signal loss. perhaps over an apparent lateral distance of perhaps two to three geophones. However. In an embankment.M. such as a distinct zone of cohesionless material in a geologic setting of cemented materials.May 2011 Revision Strong seismic anomaly – would typically be an excellent to good (Rucker and Keaton. Weak seismic anomaly – would typically be a poor (Rucker and Keaton. or the presence of considerable background noise. There may be one good (Rucker and Keaton. 1998) seismic signal indication obtained in multiple seismic shot trends (i. but the other shot trends do not support a strong seismic anomaly interpretation. has been identified at one location in the western Salt River Valley. with or without significant attenuation. but still expresses sufficient character that it would be imprudent to ignore in an investigation to evaluate the presence or absence of subsurface anomalies. Arizona . where tension has been relieved over time by ground cracking through a zone of adjacent ground.e.e. A distinct or discrete reduction in lateral seismic velocity at multiple seismic shot trends. Additional trace data obtained using 24-geophone arrays rather than 12-geophone arrays provides additional ‘looks’ at the subsurface profile at a greater variety of distances in these noisy environments to enhance the seismic anomaly interpretation. and laterally variable velocity conditions. possible velocity reversals.: forward quarter-shot. 1998) seismic signal indication obtained in multiple seismic shot trends (i. A seismic anomaly may be masked within what appears to be noise in the seismic refraction trace data. rather than a discrete earth fissure-type feature. may complicate a ‘strong’ seismic anomaly interpretation. ReMi surface wave signal traces also provide opportunity to evaluate potential anomalous signal attenuation under some conditions. Under normal conditions. or in an embankment could be a significant crack. depths to subsurface interfaces. 1998) seismic shot trend in the group. This interpretation typically indicates the presence of a significant and discrete subsurface anomaly. Rucker Page -2 . P-wave interpretations for seismic velocities of horizons and depths of horizon interfaces typically utilize first arrival picks as far as can be determined from each energy point. In native ground. anomalous time delays may not be readily Seismic Anomaly Traces . forward quarter-shot and back quarter-shot). Attenuation of the seismic signal eventually degrades the signal traces such that usable signals are not expected across an entire 24-geophone array.General Description and Procedures Interpretation and Analysis of Seismic Anomaly Traces AMEC Earth & Environmental. Possible seismic anomaly – would typically be less distinct than a weak seismic anomaly.: fore-shot. Although this type of feature is typically a buried paleo-channel. this interpretation more likely indicates the presence of a subsurface anomalous condition that influences seismic velocity. this interpretation is more likely consistent with a zone of desiccation cracking that is relatively shallow in extent. An example of a strong seismic anomaly in an embankment is presented in Figure 9 of Rucker and Holmquist (2006). Such an anomaly in native ground could be an earth fissure. a sediment-filled earth fissure. can also contribute to the interpretation of a weak seismic anomaly. Early air wave signals masking first arrivals at a deep low velocity surficial horizon. data for a minimum distance of at least 9 to 12 geophones of a 24-geophone array can be picked for each energy point.

Copies of the p-wave traces and traces of a selected ReMi surface wave data set are attached. The fore-shot traces (file 3017) show a first arrival trend at geophones 2 to 6 that begins to degrade at geophone 6. well formed first arrivals. The use of 24 geophone channels provides effective trace information at L19 that could not be obtained using only 12 geophone channels. Three seismic lines were completed on the earth fissure trend to the southwest of this line. The fissure trend crosses the seismic line in the vicinity of geophones 11 to 12. was centered on the known fissure crossing Olive Avenue just east of State Route (SR) 303 in the western Salt River Valley. with the anomaly further indicated to be between the midshot point and geophone 7. and Kenneth C. and the upward portion of the first arrival trend slows significantly. p-wave traces are typically formed throughout only part of the data set. Rucker on May 3. Copies of two sets of p-wave traces are attached. Based on visual examination without quantitative interpretation. The fissure trend crosses the seismic line in the vicinity of geophones 6 to 8. The seismic line. of AMEC on March 10.M. P. 2009). Arizona (AZGS. that low-velocity feature was consistent with a buried paleochannel. Traffic on SR 303 generated considerable background noise that reduced the visual quality of the p-wave traces. the downward portion of the first arrivals are severely attenuated or lost. Rucker. The surficial soil horizon has interpreted p-wave velocities at or less than the speed of sound in air and interpreted depths of about 10 to over 20 feet at the attached traces. Beginning at geophone 7 and continuing through geophone 12. A 240-foot long 24-geophone seismic line was completed on the northern right-of-way of Olive Avenue across a known earth fissure by Mr. The anomaly is consistent with the interpretation of an active earth fissure at this location. Fergason. a strong seismic anomaly is indicated in the vicinity of geophones 6 to 7. labeled “L3” on the scanned traces. 2009). attenuation or total loss of signal typically apparent. The seismic line. seismic traces from these lines did not indicate the presence of fissuring. 2011. The mid-shot (file 3019) shows loss of signal at geophones 7 through 12.G. although complete interpretations of the p-wave data indicated a localized low-velocity feature at the fissure trend. Arizona (AZGS. with time offset delays and degradation of trace quality. Seismic Anomaly Traces .L. The forward quarter-shot (file 3018) shows time delay and / or lateral reduction in p-wave velocity beginning at geophone 7. Inc Tempe. The back-shot (file 3021) shows only air wave noise and no clear. without further investigation. Rucker Page -3 . perhaps as far as 4 to 6 geophones. was centered on the known earth fissure crossing Northern Avenue about one-half mile east of Dysart Road in Glendale. The back quarter-shot (file 3020) shows slow p-wave velocities (lower than the speed of sound in air) with normal trace shapes only clearly identifiable between geophones 5 and 3. Based on the seismic traces. may be air-wave rather than ground p-wave arrivals.E.General Description and Procedures Interpretation and Analysis of Seismic Anomaly Traces AMEC Earth & Environmental.May 2011 Revision discernable or interpretable using this method. Arizona . but may be effective in some conditions. apparent p-wave first arrivals at the geophones nearest the shotpoint. ReMi’s s-wave use has not been as extensively tested as p-wave seismic refraction. Discussion of Example Seismic Line Traces A 120-foot long 12-geophone seismic line was completed along the Northern Avenue south right-of-way fence across a known earth fissure by Michael L. P. labeled “L19” on the scanned traces. 2009.

Low-frequency ‘ground-roll’ ambient noise is significant in the lowermost seismic traces that are both closest to SR 303 and set to the highest gains.. and Holmquist. ASCE.. and Keaton. Borchers. in Unsaturated Soils. C. sometimes out to perhaps 4 to 6 geophone traces. Arizona . Louis. M.W.. Arizona.L.General Description and Procedures Interpretation and Analysis of Seismic Anomaly Traces AMEC Earth & Environmental. That seismic energy does not have to cross the earth fissure. Oklahoma. (ed). Houston. A. 147. References: Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS). Special Publ. Poland Symposium on Land Subsidence. eds. Tulsa.C.optimsoftware. Case Studies and Current Research. only the uppermost 8 to 9 seismic traces (about geophones 16 through 24) show well-defined first arrival waveforms. quality p-wave traces are typically formed throughout only a portion of the L19 data sets..L. Reston. and Fredlund. The use of amplitudes in seismic refraction survey. P. 207-216. The same pattern of well-formed first arrival traces to the east and missing first arrival traces to the west is present in the trace set for the adjacent L19 shotpoint 30 feet to the east (L19 upper trace set). No similar pattern of well-formed first arrival traces is present to the west of the shotpoint where the seismic energy has to cross the earth fissure. 2006.pdf Accessed August 25. Association of Engineering Geologists. J. Rucker Page -4 .E. http://www. ed. February.L. J. in Land Subsidence. 8.S. Typically. D.L. at least 6 well-formed first arrival traces can be identified to the east in the upper portion of the trace set. pp. 85-118. Tracing an earth fissure using refraction-seismic methods with physical verification. in Musgrave. Seismic Refraction Prospecting. Due to the air wave interference at traces near to the shotpoints. Nonetheless. 1998. Seismic Anomaly Traces .A. 2009.G. 601-612. Society of Exploration Geophysicists. Zapata. 2010. the location of the earth fissure cannot be effectively determined to the nearest geophone pair. With the fissure located just west of the shotpoint. Miller. 2006.. Higher-frequency noise associated with the sledgehammer impact dominates traces in the vicinity of the shotpoint. No. Mo. Surface seismic methods for locating and Tracing earth fissures and other significant discontinuities in cemented unsaturated soils and earthen structures. pp. M.. Rucker. O’Brien. Digitial Map Series – Earth Fissure Map 8 (DM-EF-8).com/white_papers/images/FHWA2006RuckerPwaveS-wave. Va.. Rucker.W. O. Inc Tempe. a strong anomaly interpretation can be made at the lower L19 trace set with the shotpoint at the geophone array center. S. 1967. G.May 2011 Revision Based on visual examination without quantitative interpretation.R. Integrating Seismic Refraction and Surface Wave Data Collection and Interpretation for Geotechnical Site Characterization.L.N. Earth Fissure Map of the Luke Study Area: Maricopa County. presented at FHWAGeophysics2006. Rucker. M.. St. Geotechnical Special Publication No. 4-7. Dec..M. Proceedings of the Joseph F.

Seismic Line L3 fore-shot.L. Refraction along an embedded high-speed layer. in Musgrave. 1967.C. Inc Tempe. Rucker Page -5 . (ed). Oklahoma.. Arizona . This fissure is readily discernable by visual inspection of the traces using a 12-geophone array.May 2011 Revision Sherwood. Society of Exploration Geophysicists.W. Seismic Anomaly Traces . A. J.M.W. 138-151. Tulsa.General Description and Procedures Interpretation and Analysis of Seismic Anomaly Traces AMEC Earth & Environmental. forward quarter-shot and mid-shot traces across known earth fissure. Seismic Refraction Prospecting.

Seismic Anomaly Traces . Rucker Page -6 . Inc Tempe. back-shot and refraction microtremor traces across known earth fissure.M.L. Arizona .General Description and Procedures Interpretation and Analysis of Seismic Anomaly Traces AMEC Earth & Environmental.May 2011 Revision Seismic Line L3 back quarter-shot.

May 2011 Revision Seismic Line 19 midshot (lower trace set) and shotpoint 30 feet to the east (upper trace set) across known earth fissure. Rucker Page -7 . The sledge hammer airwave noise masks first arrival signals at the geophones closest to the shotpoint. Seismic Anomaly Traces . Arizona .General Description and Procedures Interpretation and Analysis of Seismic Anomaly Traces AMEC Earth & Environmental.M.L. a 24-geophone array is needed to readily discern this earth fissure from visual inspection of the traces. Inc Tempe.