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Abnormal events: A term to indicate features in seismic data other than

reflections, including events such as diffractions, multiples, refractions and
surface waves. Although the term suggests that such events are not common,
they often occur in seismic data.

Absorbing Boundary Condition: An algorithm used in numerical simulation

along the boundary of a computational domain to absorb all energy incident upon
that boundary and to suppress reflection artifacts.

Absorptance: The ratio of absorbed incident energy to the total energy to which a
body is exposed.

Absorption: The conversion of one form of energy into another as the energy
passes through a medium. For example, seismic waves are partially converted to
heat as they pass through rock.

Absorption Band: The range of wavelengths of energy that can be absorbed by a

given substance.

Accelerometer: A device used during surveying to measure the acceleration of a

ship or aircraft, or to detect ground acceleration in boreholes or on the Earth's
surface produced by acoustic vibrations.

- Pertaining to sound. Generally, acoustic describes sound or vibrational events,
regardless of frequency. The term sonic is limited to frequencies and tools
operated in the frequency range of 1 to 25 kilohertz.
- In geophysics, acoustic refers specifically to P-waves in the absence of S-waves
(i.e., in fluids, which do not support S-waves, or in cases in which S-waves in
solids are ignored).

Acoustic Basement: The portion of the Earth below which strata cannot be
imaged with seismic data, or the deepest relatively continuous reflector. Acoustic
basement, in some regions, coincides with economic basement and
geologic basement, or that portion of the Earth that does not comprise
sedimentary rocks.

Acoustic Coupler: An obsolete piece of equipment that converts acoustic signals

from analog to electrical form and back. A common use of an acoustic coupler was
to provide an interface between a telephone and an early type of computer

Acoustic Emission: A type of elastic wave produced by deformation or brittle

failure of material and characterized by relatively high frequency.

Acoustic Impedance: The product of density and seismic velocity, which varies
among different rocklayers, commonly symbolized by Z. The difference in acoustic
impedance between rock layers affects the reflection coefficient.

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Acoustic Impedance Section: A seismic reflectivity section, or a 2D or
3D seismic section, that has been inverted for acoustic impedance. Sonic and
density logs can be used to calibrate acoustic impedance sections.

Acoustic Log / acoustic velocity log: A display of traveltime of acoustic waves

versus depth in a well. The term is commonly used as a synonym for a sonic log.
Some acoustic logs display velocity.

Acoustic Positioning: A method of calculating the position of

marine seismic equipment. Range measurements are made whereby distance is
equal to acoustic signal traveltime from transmitter to hydrophone multiplied by
the speed of sound in water. When sufficient acoustic ranges with a
proper geometric distribution are collected, location coordinates x, y and z of the
marine seismic equipment can be computed by the method of trilateration
(measuring the lengths of the sides of overlapping triangles). Acoustic positioning
is commonly used in towed streamer and ocean-bottom cable seismic
acquisition modes.

Acoustic Transparency: The quality of a medium whose acoustic impedance is

constant throughout, such that it contains no seismic reflections. An example of
an acoustically transparent medium is water.

Acoustic traveltime: see traveltime

Acoustic velocity: see velocity

Acoustic Wave: General term for a P-wave.

Acquisition: The generation and recording of seismic data. Acquisition involves

many different receiver configurations, including laying geophones or
seismometers on the surface of the Earth or seafloor, towing hydrophones behind
a marine seismic vessel, suspending hydrophones vertically in the sea or placing
geophones in a wellbore (as in a vertical seismic profile) to record the seismic
signal. A source, such as a vibrator unit, dynamite shot, or an air gun,
generates acoustic or elastic vibrations that travel into the Earth, pass through
strata with different seismic responses and filtering effects, and return to the
surface to be recorded as seismic data. Optimal acquisition varies according to
local conditions and involves employing the appropriate source (both type and
intensity), optimal configuration of receivers, and orientation of receiver lines with
respect to geological features. This ensures that the highest signal-to-noise ratio
can be recorded, resolution is appropriate, and extraneous effects such as air
waves, ground roll, multiples and diffractions can be minimized or distinguished,
and removed through processing.

Aeolotropy: see anisotropy

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Aeromagnetic Survey: Measurements of the Earth's magnetic field gathered
from aircraft. Magnetometers towed by an airplane or helicopter can measure the
intensity of the Earth's magnetic field. The differences between actual
measurements and theoretical values indicate anomalies in the magnetic field,
which in turn represent changes in rock type or in thickness of rock units.
AGC: automatic gain control

AGC Time Constant: automatic gain control

Air Gun: A source of seismic energy used in acquisition of marine seismic data.
This gun releases highly compressed air into water. Air guns are also used in
water-filled pits on land as an energy source during acquisition of vertical seismic

Air Shooting: A method of seismic acquisition using charges detonated in the air
or on poles above the ground as the source. Air shooting is also called the Poulter
method after American geophysicist Thomas Poulter.

Air Wave: A sound wave that travels through the air at approximately 330 m/s and
can be generated and recorded during seismic surveying. Air waves are a type
of coherent noise.

Alias Filter / antialias filter: A filter, or a set of limits used to eliminate

unwanted portions of the spectra of the seismic data, to remove frequencies that
might cause aliasing during the process of sampling an analog signal during
acquisition or when the sample rate of digital data is being decreased
during seismic processing.

Aliasing: The distortion of frequency introduced by inadequately sampling a

signal, which results in ambiguity between signal and noise. Aliasing can be
avoided by sampling at least twice the highest frequency of the waveform or by
filtering frequencies above the Nyquist frequency, the highest frequency that can
be defined accurately by that sampling interval.

Amplitude: The difference between the maximum displacement of a wave and the
point of no displacement, or the null point. The common symbol for amplitude
is a.

Amplitude Anomaly / bright spot: An abrupt increase in seismic amplitude that

can indicate the presence of hydrocarbons, although such anomalies can also
result from processing problems, geometric or velocity focusing or changes in
lithology. Amplitude anomalies that indicate the presence of hydrocarbons can
result from sudden changes in acoustic impedance, such as when a gas
sand underlies a shale, and in that case, the term is used synonymously
with hydrocarbon indicator.

Amplitude distortion: see distortion

Amplitude Variation with Offset (AVO): Variation

in seismic reflection amplitude with change in distance between

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shotpoint and receiver that indicates differences in lithology and fluid content in
rocks above and below the reflector. AVO analysis is a technique by which
geophysicists attempt to determine thickness, porosity, density, velocity, lithology
and fluid content of rocks. Successful AVO analysis requires special processing of
seismic data and seismic modeling to determine rock properties with a known
fluid content. With that knowledge, it is possible to model other types of fluid
content. A gas-filled sandstone might show increasing amplitude with offset,
whereas a coal might show decreasing amplitude with offset. A limitation of AVO
analysis using only P-energy is its failure to yield a unique solution, so AVO results
are prone to misinterpretation. One common misinterpretation is the failure to
distinguish a gas-filled reservoir from a reservoir having only partial
gas saturation ("fizz water"). However, AVO analysis using source-generated or
mode-converted shear wave energy allows differentiation of degrees of gas
saturation. AVO analysis is more successful in young, poorly consolidated rocks,
such as those in the Gulf of Mexico, than in older, well-cemented sediments.

Angle of Approach: The acute angle at which a wavefront impinges upon an

interface, such as a seismic wave impinging upon strata. Normal incidence is the
case in which the angle of incidence is zero, the wavefront is parallel to the
surface and its raypath is perpendicular, or normal, to the interface. Snell's
law describes the relationship between the angle of incidence and the angle of
refraction of a wave.

Angle of Incidence / incident angle: The acute angle at which a raypath

impinges upon a line normal to an interface, such as a seismic wave impinging
upon strata. Normal incidence is the case in which the angle of incidence is zero,
the wavefront is parallel to the surface and its raypath is perpendicular, or normal,
to the interface. Snell's law describes the relationship between the angle of
incidence and the angle of refraction of a wave.

Angle of Dispersion / seismic velocity: The variation of seismic velocity in

different directions.

Anisotropy / anisotropic: Predictable variation of a property of a material with

the direction in which it is measured, which can occur at all scales. For a crystal of
a mineral, variation in physical properties observed in different directions is
anisotropy. In rocks, variation in seismic velocity measured parallel or
perpendicular to bedding surfaces is a form of anisotropy. Often found where platy
minerals such as micas and clays align parallel to depositional bedding as
sediments are compacted, anisotropy is common in shales.

Antialias filter: alias filter

- A portion of a data set, such as seismic data, to which functions or filters are
applied. Aperture time, for example, can be specified, such as a window from 1.2
to 2.8 seconds. (window)
- A mechanism to limit the affects of measurements on a device or system.
In seismic data acquisition, the length of the spread has the effect of an aperture.

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Appparent anisotropy: In seismic data, the ratio of the velocity determined
from normal moveout (i.e., primarily a horizontal measurement) to velocity
measured vertically in a vertical seismic profile or similar survey. Apparent
anisotropy is of particular importance when migrating long-offset seismic data
and analyzing AVO data accurately. The normal moveout velocity involves the
horizontal component of the velocity field, which affects sources and receivers
that are offset, but the horizontal velocity field is not involved in velocity
calculations from vertically measured time-depth pairs.

Appparent Velocity: In geophysics, the speed of a wavefront in a certain

direction, typically measured along a line of receivers and symbolized by va.
Apparent velocity and velocity are related by the cosine of the angle at which the
wavefront approaches the receivers:
Where va = apparent velocity, v = velocity of wavefront and = angle at which a
wavefront approach the geophone array. Thus, v va

Appparent Wavelength: The wavelength measured by receivers when

a wave approaches at an angle. The relationship between true and apparent
wavelength can be shown mathematically as follows:
= a sin
where = wavelength, a = apparent wavelength, = angle at which a wavefront
approach the geophone array

Applied-potential method : equipotential method

- Generally, a geometrical configuration of transducers (sources or receivers) used
to generate or record a physical field, such as an acoustic or electromagnetic
wavefield or the Earth's gravity field. (nest)
- A geometrical arrangement of seismic sources (a source array, with each
individual source being activated in some fixed sequence in time) or receivers (a
hydrophone or geophone array) that is recorded by one channel. (nest)
- An arrangement or configuration of electrodes or antennas used
for resistivity, induced polarization (IP), or other types of electromagnetic
surveying. Resistivity arrays typically consist of two current electrodes and two
potential electrodes and are distinguished by the relative separations between
the electrodes. Examples are the dipole-dipole, Schlumberger and Wenner arrays.
- In computing, code written to access data in more than one dimension according
to a name and subscripts that correspond to each dimension.

Arrival / event : An event or appearance of seismic data as a reflection,

refraction, diffraction or other similar feature, or the time at which seismic data
appear. An event in a seismic section can represent a geologic interface.

Arrival time: The elapsed time between the release of seismic energy from a
source and its arrival at the receiver.

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Attenuate / attenuation: The elapsed time between the release
of seismic energy from a source and its arrival at the receiver.

Attenuation / attenuate: The loss of energy or amplitude of waves as they pass

through media. Seismic waves lose energy
through absorption, reflection and refraction at interfaces, mode conversion and
spherical divergence, or spreading of the wave.

Attribute: A measurable property of seismic data, such

as amplitude, dip, frequency, phase and polarity. Attributes can be measured at
one instant in time or over a time window, and may be measured on a
single trace, on a set of traces or on a surface interpreted from seismic data.
Attribute analysis includes assessment of various reservoir parameters, including
ahydrocarbon indicator, by techniques such as amplitude variation with
offset (AVO) analysis.

Autocorrelation: The comparison of a waveform to itself. Autocorrelation is useful

in the identification of multiples or other regularly repeating signals, and in
designing deconvolution filters to suppress them.

Automatic Gain Control (AGC) : A system to control the gain, or the increase in
the amplitude of an electrical signal from the original input to the amplified
output, automatically. AGC is commonly used in seismic processing to improve
visibility of late-arriving events in which attenuation or wavefront divergence has
caused amplitude decay.

Autotrack / autotracking: To use computer software to pick a particular

reflection or attribute in seismic data automatically. Autotracking can speed
interpretation of three-dimensional seismic data, but must be checked for errors,
especially in areas of faulting and stratigraphic changes.

Average Velocity: In geophysics, the depth divided by the traveltime of a wave to

that depth. Average velocity is commonly calculated by assuming a vertical path,
parallel layers and straight raypaths, conditions that are quite idealized compared
to those actually found in the Earth.

AVO: amplitude variation with offset.

Back Propagation: A method for reconstructing the location and shape of

the wave at an earlier time using the wave equation.

Back Stripping: A modeling technique to assess the geologic history

of rock layers through the use of geologic cross sections or seismic sections.
Removal of the youngest layers of rock at the top of the section allows restoration
of the underlying layers to their initial, undisturbed configurations. Successively
older layers can be removed sequentially to further assess the effects
of compaction, development of geologic structures and other processes on an

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Backscatter: A reflection phenomenon of energy in which a nonreflective surface,
which is a surface that does not reflect energy coherently, randomly scatters
energy. No coherent reflected energy can be identified and the energy is scattered
in all directions, including back in the direction from which it came. For example,
light can be scattered or redistributed by rough, nonreflective surfaces.

Band: A range of frequencies or wavelengths. Audible frequencies of sound and

visible wavelengths of light are examples of bands. In seismic data, band-
pass frequencies are within the limits of a specific filter, while band-
reject frequencies exceed the acceptable range of frequencies.

Band Limited Function: A function or time series whose Fourier transform is

restricted to a finite range of frequencies or wavelengths.

Band Pass: Frequencies within the acceptable limits of a filter. The term is
commonly used as an adjective, as in "band-pass filter," to denote a filter that
passes a range of frequencies unaltered while rejecting frequencies outside the

Band Reject: Frequencies beyond the limits of a filter.

Base of Weathering: The lower boundary of the near-surface, low-velocity zone

in which rocks are physically, chemically or biologically broken down, in some
cases coincident with a water table. Static corrections to seismic data can
compensate for the low velocity of the weathered layer in comparison with the
higher-velocity strata below.

Base Station: A reference location for a survey, or a survey point whose

measured values of a given parameter of interest are understood and can be used
to normalize other survey points. Accurate knowledge of base stations is critical
in gravity and magnetic surveying.

- A line joining base stations whose transmissions are synchronized during
- A reference line, such as a "shale baseline," a line representing the typical value
of a given measurement for a shale on a well log, or the zero-amplitude line of
a seismic trace.
- The original survey of a set of surveys covering the same area but acquired over
a period of time. In four-dimensional seismic data, it is the first seismic survey,
which is then compared to subsequent surveys

Basic wavelet: embedded wavelet

Beaufort Scale: The 0 to 12 scale for measurement of wind strength according to

its effect on objects such as trees, flags and water established by Admiral Francis
Beaufort (1774 to 1857). According to the Beaufort scale, at wind speeds below 1
knot or 1 km/hr, seas are calm. Whitecaps on water and blowing dust and leaves
correspond to a Beaufort number of 4, with winds of 11 to 16 knots [20 to 28

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km/hr]. Hurricane-force winds, greater than 64 knots [> 118 km/hr], have a
Beaufort number of 12.

Bel: The unit of measurement to describe or compare the intensity of acoustic or

electrical signal, named for American inventor Alexander Graham Bell (1847 to
1922). Measurements are typically given in tenths of a bel, or decibels. The
logarithm of the ratio of the sound or signal to a standard provides the decibel
measurement. Sounds on the order of one decibel are barely audible to humans
but can cause pain when on the order of 10 12 decibels. The symbol for the unit is
B, but dB is the standard unit.

- A permanently fixed marker cited in surveying, such as a concrete block or steel
plate, with an inscription of location and elevation.
- A standard against which the performance of processes are measured.

Bias: An adjustment of the relative positive and negative excursions of reflections

during seismic processing by bulk shifting the null point, or baseline, of the data
to emphasize peaks at the expense of troughs or vice versa. Some authors
describe bias as a systematic distortion of seismic data to achieve greater

- A subdivision of a seismic survey. The area of a three-dimensional survey is
divided into bins, which are commonly on the order of 25 m [82 ft] long and 25 m
wide; traces are assigned to specific bins according to the midpoint between
the source and the receiver, reflection point or conversion point. Bins are
commonly assigned according to common midpoint (CMP), but more
sophisticated seismic processing allows for other types of binning. Traces within a
bin are stacked to generate the output trace for that bin. Data quality depends in
part on the number of traces per bin, or the fold.
- To sort seismic data into small areas according to the midpoint between
the source and the receiver, reflection point or conversion point prior to stacking.

Bird: A device containing a magnetometer and possibly other instruments that can
be towed by an aircraft during aeromagnetic surveying or in a marine
seismic streamer to provide dynamic information about the streamer position.

Birefringence / double refraction: The splitting of an incident wave into two

waves of different velocities and orthogonal polarizations. Birefringence occurs in
optical mineralogy (see petrography) when plane-polarized light passes through
an anisotropic mineral and emerges as two rays traveling at different speeds, the
difference between which is characteristic of a mineral. In seismology, incident S-
waves can exhibit birefringence as they split into a quasi-shear and a pure-shear
wave. Although birefringence was first described by Danish physician Erasmus
Bartholin (1625 to 1698) in crystals in 1669, the phenomenon was not fully
understood until French physicist Etienne-Louis Malus (1775 to 1812) described
polarized light in 1808.

Blasting cap: see cap, detonator.

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- A layer or body of rock that cannot be detected by seismic refraction, typically
because its velocity is lower than that of the overlying rocks; also known as a
hidden layer.
- A shadow zone, or a zone through which waves do not pass, or cannot be
recorded, or in which reflections do not occur.

BM : benchmark

Bodywave: A wave that propagates through a medium rather than along an

interface. P-waves and S-waves are examples of body waves.

Borehole Seismic Data: Seismic data measured with receivers, sources or both in
a well, such as a check-sho survey, vertical seismic profile (VSP), crosswell seismic
data or single-well imaging. By directly measuring the acoustic velocity of
each formation encountered in a well, the well logs and borehole seismic data can
be correlated to surface seismic data more easily. Borehole seismic data, including
both S- and P-waves, can be gathered in a cased or openhole. This term is
commonly used to distinguish between borehole sonic data (with frequencies
typically greater than 1000 Hz) and borehole seismic data (with frequencies
typically less than 1000 Hz).

Bouger Anomaly: The remaining value of gravitational attraction after accounting

for the theoretical gravitational attraction at the point of measurement, latitude,
elevation, the Bouguer correction and the free-air correction (which compensates
for height above sea level assuming there is only air between the measurement
station and sea level). This anomaly is named for Pierre Bouguer, a French
mathematician (1698 to 1758) who demonstrated that gravitational attraction
decreases with altitude.

Bouger Correction: The adjustment to a measurement of gravitational

acceleration to account for elevation and the density of rock between the
measurement station and a reference level. It can be expressed mathematically
as the product of the density of the rock, the height relative to sea level or
another reference, and a constant, in units of mGal:
0.4185 h,
Where = rock density in kg/m3, h = height difference between two location in m.
Strictly interpreted, the Bouguer correction is added to the known value
of gravity at the reference station to predict the value of gravity at the
measurement level. The difference between the actual value and the predicted
value is the gravity anomaly, which results from differences in density between
the actual Earth and reference model anywhere below the measurement station.

Bow tie: A concave-upward event in seismic data produced by a buried focus and
corrected by proper migration of seismic data. The focusing of the seismic
wave produces three reflection points on the event per surface location. The
name was coined for the appearance of the event in unmigrated seismic data.
Synclines, or sags, commonly generate bow ties.

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Brachistochrone: minimum-time path

Break: see first break.

Bright spot: A seismic amplitude anomaly or high amplitude that can indicate the
presence of hydrocarbons. Bright spots result from large changes in acoustic
impedance and tuning effect, such as when a gas sand underlies a shale, but can
also be caused by phenomena other than the presence of hydrocarbons, such as
a change in lithology. The term is often used synonymously with hydrocarbon

Brute Stack: A processed seismic record that contains traces from a common
midpoint that have been added together but has undergone only cursory velocity
analysis, so the normal-moveout correction is a first attempt. Typically, no static
corrections are made before the brute stack.

Bubble Effect: Bubble pulses or bubble noise that affect data quality. In marine
seismic acquisition, the gas bubble produced by an air gun oscillates and
generates subsequent pulses that cause source-generated noise. Careful use of
multiple air guns can cause destructive interference of bubble pulses and
alleviate the bubble effect. A cage, or a steel enclosure surrounding a seismic
source, can be used to dissipate energy and reduce the bubble effect.

Buggy Vibro: A vibrator truck equipped with wide tires to allow access to rugged
or soggy terrain while causing less damage to the environment.

Bulk Modulus / modulus of compression: The ratio of stress to strain,

abbreviated as k. The bulk modulus is an elastic constant equal to the applied
stress divided by the ratio of the change in volume to the original volume of a
Where K = bulk modulus, V = volume, P = partial derivative of pressure, and
V = partial derivative of volume

Cable: A bundle of electrical wires that connects geophones, or the entire carrier
system for marine hydrophones, which includes the hydrophones, the electrical
wires, the stress member, spacers, the outer skin of the cable, and the streamer
filler, which is typically kerosene or a buoyant plastic. The cable relays data to
the seismic recording truck or seismic vessel.

Calibration: A method of adjusting a data set against a control that has properties
to which the data set should conform.

Cap / blasting cap: A small, electrically activated explosive charge that detonates
a larger charge. Caps, also called seismic caps or blasting caps, are used for
seismic acquisition with an explosive source to achieve consistent timing of

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Caprock Effect: A type of positive gravity anomaly that results from the presence
of a dense cap rock overlying a relatively low-density salt dome.

Cavitation: An implosion produced by locally low pressure, such as the collapse of

a gas bubble in liquid (the energy of which is used as the source of seismic energy
from air guns).

CDP : Common Depth Point

Channel: A device to carry data from a receiver to a recorder, such as from a

group of geophones. Simultaneous recording of 500 to 2000 channels is common
during 3D seismic acquisition, and 120 to 240 channels during onshore 2D seismic

Channel Wave / guided wave: An type of elastic wave propagated and confined
in a layer whose velocity is lower than that of the surrounding layers, such as a
layer of coal.

Character / signature: A distinguishing feature of a waveform in a seismic event,

such as shape, frequency, phase or continuity.

Check-shot survey / shoot a well / velocity survey / well shoot: A type of

borehole seismic data designed to measure the seismic traveltime from the
surface to a known depth. P-wave velocity of the formations encountered in a
wellbore can be measured directly by lowering a geophone to each formation of
interest, sending out a source of energy from the surface of the Earth, and
recording the resultant signal. The data can then be correlated to surface seismic
data by correcting the sonic log and generating a synthetic seismogram to
confirm or modify seismic interpretations. It differs from a vertical seismic profile
in the number and density of receiver depths recorded; geophone positions may
be widely and irregularly located in the wellbore, whereas a vertical seismic
profile usually has numerous geophones positioned at closely and regularly
spaced intervals in the wellbore.

Circle Shooting: A technique for marine seismic acquisition around salt domes or
other circular features in which the acquisition vessel travels in a spiral path
above the feature. Circle shooting can also be performed to increase efficiency.
Rather than acquiring a line of data and turning the seismic vessel around to
acquire another line, the vessel can travel in a pattern of offset circles and collect
data continuously.

CMP : Common Midpoint

- A measure of the similarity of two seismic traces.
- The quality of two wave trains, or waves consisting of several cycles, being
in phase.
- The similarity of two mathematical functions as evaluated in the frequency

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- A quantitative assessment of the similarity of three or more functions, also
called semblance.

Coherence Filtering / coherent detection: A technique for removing noise and

emphasizing coherent events from multiple channels of seismic data.

Coherent: Pertaining to seismic events that show continuity from trace to

trace. Seismic processing to enhance recognition of coherent events and
emphasize discontinuities such as faults and stratigraphic changes has gained
popularity since the mid-1990s.

Coherent Noise: Undesirable seismic energy that shows consistent phase

from trace to trace, such as ground roll and multiples.

Coil Shooting Acquisition: A technique for acquiring full-

azimuth marine seismic data. This technique uses a vessel equipped
with source arrays and streamers to shoot and record seismic data; however,
unlike conventional surveys acquired in a series of parallel straight lines, coil
shooting surveys are acquired as the vessel steams in a series of overlapping,
continuously linked circles, or coils. The circular shooting geometry acquires a full
range of offset data across every azimuth to sample the subsurface geology in all
directions. The resulting full azimuth (FAZ) data are used to image complex
geology, such as highly faulted strata, basalt, carbonate reefs
and subsalt formations.

Common depth point (CDP): In multichannel seismic acquisition where beds do

not dip, the common reflection point at depth on a reflector, or the halfway point
when a wave travels from a source to a reflector to a receiver. In the case of flat
layers, the common depth point is vertically below the common midpoint. In the
case of dipping beds, there is no common depth point shared by multiple sources
and receivers, so dip moveout processing is necessary to reduce smearing, or
inappropriate mixing, of the data.

Common midpoint (CMP): In multichannel seismic acquisition, the point on the

surface halfway between the source and receiver that is shared by numerous
source-receiver pairs. Such redundancy among source-receiver pairs enhances
the quality of seismic data when the data are stacked. The common midpoint is
vertically above the common depth point, or common reflection point. Common
midpoint is not the same as common depth point, but the terms are often
incorrectly used as synonyms.

Common Midpoint Method: Method of seismic reflection surveying and

processing that exploits the redundancy of multiple fold to enhance data quality
by reducing noise. During acquisition, an energy source is supplied to a number of
shotpoints simultaneously. Once data have been recorded, the energy source is
moved farther down the line of acquisition, but enough overlap is left that some of
the reflection points are re-recorded with a different source-to-receiver offset.
Multiple shotpoints that share a source-receiver midpoint are stacked. The
number of times that a common midpoint is recorded is the fold of the data.

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Common Reflection Point: In multichannel seismic acquisition, the common
midpoint on a reflector, or the halfway point when a wave travels from a source to
a reflector to a receiver that is shared by numerous locations if the reflector is
flat-lying. Like common depth point, this term is commonly misused, because in
the case of dipping layers, common reflection points do not exist.

Common-offset: Pertaining to traces that have the same offset, or distance

between source and receiver.

Common-receiver: Pertaining to traces that have a different source but share

a receiver.

Compaction Correction: A change made to porosity measurements, such as

those from sonic logs, to compensate for the lack of compaction, or the predicted
loss of pore space as sediments are buried by overburden. Compaction
corrections are commonly performed in uncompacted sediments.

Complex Trace-analysis: A mathematical method to

determine seismic attributes, including reflection strength and instantaneous
frequency, by using the Hilbert transform, a special form of the Fourier transform,
and the quadraturet race, or the component of the signal that is 90 degrees out
of phase.

Compressional wave: P-wave

- The product of conductivity and thickness, typically measured in units of siemens
(S). In the inversion of electrical and electromagnetic measurements, the
conductance of a layer or zone is usually much better determined than either the
conductivity or thickness individually.
- The reciprocal of resistance in a direct current circuit, measured in siemens
(formerly mhos). In an alternating current circuit, conductance is the resistance
divided by the square of impedance, also measured in siemens.

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- In mathematics, the process in which a sequence of numbers approaches a fixed
value called the "limit" of the sequence. This term is often used in modeling or
inversion to describe the situation in which a sequence of calculated values
approach, or converge with, measured values
- The effect of performing computations using a planar surface instead of the
curved surface of survey measurements. A convergence correction
accommodates the change from rectangular coordinates to latitude and
longitude. (divergence)

Converted Wave: A seismic wave that changes from a P-wave to an S-wave, or

vice versa, when it encounters an interface.

Convolution / convolve: A mathematical operation on two functions that is the

most general representation of the process of linear (invariant) filtering.
Convolution can be applied to any two functions of time or space (or other
variables) to yield a third function, the output of the convolution. Although the
mathematical definition is symmetric with respect to the two input functions, it is
common in signal processing to say that one of the functions is a filter acting on
the other function. The response of many physical systems can be represented
mathematically by a convolution. For example, a convolution can be used
to model the filtering of seismic energy by the various rock layers in the
Earth; deconvolution is used extensively in seismic processing to counteract that

Correlation: The comparison of seismic waveforms in the time domain, similar to

coherence in the frequency domain.


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- The state of being attached to another entity: A well-planted geophone has a
coupling to the Earth's surface or to a borehole wall that allows it to record ground
motion during acquisition of seismic data.
- An electrical or mechanical device that joins parts of systems and can affect the
interaction of, or energy transfer between, parts of systems. Electrical couplings
promote the passage of certain signals but prevent the passage of others, such as
an alternating current coupling that excludes direct current.

Critical Angle: The angle of incidence according to Snell's law at which a

refracted wave travels along the interface between two media. It can be
quantified mathematically as follows:

Critical Damping (c): The minimum damping that will prevent or stop oscillation
in the shortest amount of time, typically associated with oscillatory systems like

Critical Reflection: A reflection, typically at a large angle, that occurs when the
angle of incidence and the angle of reflection of a wave are equal to the critical

Crosscorrelation / crosscorrelate: The comparison of different waveforms in

digital form to quantify their similarity. A normalized crosscorrelation, or a
correlation coefficient, equal to unity indicates a perfect match, whereas a poor
match will yield a value close to zero.

Crossline: A seismic line within a 3D survey perpendicular to the direction in

which the data were acquired.

Crosswell Reflection Tomography: A crosswell seismic technique that

incorporates reflection traveltimes and direct traveltimes into a
tomographic inversion algorithm to produce images of seismic velocity between

Crosswell Seismic Tomography: A survey technique that measures the seismic

signal transmitted from a source, located in one well, to a receiver array in a
neighboring well. The resulting data are processed to create a reflection image or
to map the acoustic velocity or other properties (velocities of P- and S-waves, for
example) of the area between wells. Placement of the source and receiver array in
adjacent wells not only enables the formation between wells to be surveyed, it
also avoids seismic signal propagation through attenuative near-surface
formations. Another advantage is that it places the source and receiver near
the reservoir zone of interest, thereby obtaining better resolution than is possible

~ 15 ~
with conventional surface seismic surveys. This technique is often used for high-
resolution reservoir characterization when surface seismic or vertical
seismic profile (VSP) data lack resolution, or for time-lapse monitoring of fluid
movements in the reservoir.

Cultural Anomaly: A local geophysical anomaly generated by a man-made

feature, such as electrical and communications wires, steel beams and tanks and
railroad tracks.

Cultural Noise: Undesirable energy, or noise, generated by human activity, such

as automobile traffic that interferes with seismic surveying, or electrical power
lines or the steel in pipelines that can adversely affect electromagnetic methods.

Curve Fitting: The generation of a theoretical equation to define a given data set.
In contrast, curve matching involves the comparison of well-understood data to a
data set of interest.

Curve Matching: The graphical comparison of well-understood data sets, called

type curves, to another data set. If a certain type curve closely corresponds to a
data set, then an interpretation of similarity can be made, although, as Sheriff
(1991) points out, there might be other type curves that also match the data of
interest. Curve matching differs from curve fitting in that curve fitting
involves theoretical models rather than actual examples.

Cycle Skip: An anomalously high transit time in a log, such as a

continuous velocity log, observable as a spike on the log, commonly caused by
the presence of fractures, gas, unconsolidated formations, aerated drilling
mud and enlarged boreholes.

Damping: The opposition, slowing or prevention of oscillation, or decreasing

vibration amplitude, as kinetic energy dissipates. Frictional damping can be
important in the use of geophones for seismic surveys, since a vibrating
instrument is difficult to read. Eddy currents can produce electromagnetic
damping. The classic example of damping from physics is the slowing of a
swinging pendulum unless it has a steady supply of energy.

Datum: An agreed and known value, such as the elevation of a benchmark or sea
level, to which other measurements are corrected. In seismic data, the term refers
to an arbitrary planar surface to which corrections are made and on which sources
and receivers are assumed to lie to minimize the effects of topography and near-
surface zones of low velocity.

Datum Correction: A value added to reflection times of seismic data to

compensate for the location of the geophone and source relative to the seismic

Decibel (dB): The unit of measurement to compare the relative intensity of

acoustic or electrical signal, equal to one-tenth of a bel, named for American
inventor Alexander Graham Bell (1847 to 1922). The logarithm of the ratio of the
sound or signal to a standard provides the decibel measurement. The symbol for

~ 16 ~
the unit is dB. Humans typically hear sounds in the range of 20 to 50 dB in
conversation, and upwards of 90 dB when exposed to heavy machinery or aircraft.

Deconvolution: A step in seismic signal processing to recover high frequencies,

attenuate multiples, equalize amplitudes, produce a zero-phase wavelet or for
other purposes that generally affect the waveshape. Deconvolution,
or inverse filtering, can improve seismic data that were adversely affected by
filtering, or convolution that occurs naturally as seismic energy is filtered by the
Earth. Deconvolution can also be performed on other types of data, such
as gravity, magnetic or well log data.

Deep Seismic Sounding: A seismic profile recorded specifically to study the

lower crust, the Mohorovicic discontinuity and the mantle of the Earth, typically
using refraction methods. Most standard seismic reflection profiles record only a
small fraction (typically, on the order of 10 km [6 miles]) of the Earth's crust,
which is 5 to 75 km [3 to 45 miles] thick.

Deep Tow: A method of marine seismic acquisition in which a boat tows

a receiver well below the surface of the water to get closer to features of interest
or to reduce noise due to conditions of the sea. Deep tow devices are used for
some side-scan sonar, gravity and magnetic surveys.

Density Contrast: The variation in the mass per unit volume of rocks, which
affects the local gravitational field of the Earth. A density contrast also contributes
to an acoustic impedance contrast, which affects the reflection coefficient.

Density Profile: A series of gravity measurements made along a line or over an

area of a locally high topographic feature to remove or compensate for the effect
of topography on deeper density readings.

Depth Controller: A device used in acquisition of marine seismic data that keeps
streamers at a certain depth in the water.

Depth Conversion: The process of transforming seismic data from a scale of time
(the domain in which they are acquired) to a scale of depth to provide a picture of
the structure of the subsurface independent of velocity. Depth conversion, ideally,
is an iterative process that begins with proper seismic processing, seismic velocity
analysis and study of well data to refine the conversion. Acoustic logs, check-shot
surveys and vertical seismic profiles can aid depth conversion efforts and
improve correlation of well logs and drilling data with surface seismic data.

Depth Map: A two-dimensional representation of subsurface structure with

contours in depth that have been converted from seismic traveltimes.

Depth Migration: A step in seismic processing in which reflections in seismic data

are moved to their correct locations in space, including position relative to
shotpoints, in areas where there are significant and rapid lateral or vertical
changes in velocity that distort the time image. This requires an accurate
knowledge of vertical and horizontal seismic velocity variations.

~ 17 ~
Depth Point: A point on the surface for which the depth to a horizon has been
calculated in a refraction seismic survey. The term is commonly misused as a
synonym for common depth point.

Depth Section: A display of seismic data with a scale of units of depth rather than
time along the vertical axis. Careful migration and depth conversion are essential
for creating depth sections.

Detectable limit: The minimum thickness necessary for a layer of rock to be

visible or distinct in reflection seismic data. Generally, the detectable limit is at
least 1/30 of the wavelength. Acquisition of higher frequency seismic data
generally results in better detection or vertical resolution of thinner layers.

Detector: A sensor or receiver, such as a geophone or hydrophone, gravimeter or


Deterministic deconvolution: A type of inverse filtering, or deconvolution, in

which the effects of the filter are known by observation or assumed, as opposed
to statistical deconvolution.

Detonate / detonator / blasting cap: A small, electrically activated explosive

charge that explodes a larger charge. Detonators, also called caps, seismic caps
or blasting caps, are used for seismic acquisition with an explosive source to
achieve consistent timing of detonation.

Dielectric: A material used in a capacitor to store a charge from an applied

electrical field. A pure dielectric does not conduct electricity.

Difference map: A map that represents the change from one map to another,
such as a reservoir map of an area made from two different seismic surveys
separated in production history (one possible product of 4D seismic data), or an
isochron map that displays the variation in time between two seismic events or

Differential weathering correction: A type of static correction that

compensates for delays in seismic reflection or refraction times from one point to
another, such as among geophone groups in a survey. These delays can be
induced by low-velocity layers such as the weathered layer near the Earth's

Diffraction: A type of event produced by the radial scattering of a wave into new
wavefronts after the wave meets a discontinuity such as a fault surface, an
unconformity or an abrupt change in rock type. Diffractions appear as hyperbolic
or umbrella-shaped events on a seismic profile. Proper migration of seismic data
makes use of diffracted energy to properly position reflections.

Diffraction stack: Kirchhoff migration.


~ 18 ~
- The movement of ions or molecules from regions of high concentration to low
concentration within a solution.
- The conduction of heat by the movement of molecules.

Diffusion equation: A partial differential equation describing the variation in

space and time of a physical quantity that is governed by diffusion. The diffusion
equation provides a good mathematical model for the variation of temperature
through conduction of heat and the propagation of electromagnetic waves in a
highly conducting medium. The diffusion equation is a parabolic partial differential
equation whose characteristic form relates the first partial derivative of a field
with respect to time to its second partial derivatives with respect to spatial
coordinates. It is closely related to the wave equation.

Dilatancy: The increase in the volume of rocks as a result of deformation, such as

when fractures develop.

Dilatancy theory: A possible explanation for volume changes in rocks due to

strain, such as microfracturing or cracking, and the accompanying change in the
ratio of P- to S-wave velocity. Support for dilatancy theory comes in the form of
porosity increases from 20 to 40% that have been measured in laboratory
experiments using rock samples.

- The process of changing volume as stress is applied to a body.
- The volumetric strain produced by applying stress to a body.
- A rarefaction, or decrease in pressure and density of a medium as molecules are
displaced by a P-wave. As P-waves pass through the Earth, the Earth undergoes
compression and expansion. These changes in volume contribute to the positive
and negative amplitudes of a seismic trace. (rarefaction)

Dilatational wave: P-wave

Dim spot: A type of local seismic event that, in contrast to a bright spot, shows
weak rather than strong amplitude. The weak amplitude might correlate with
hydrocarbons that reduce the contrast in acoustic impedance between the
reservoir and the overlying rock, or might be related to a stratigraphic change
that reduces acoustic impedance.

Dim moveout:
- The difference in the arrival times or traveltimes of a reflected wave, measured by
receivers at two different offset locations, that is produced when reflectors dip.
Seismic processing compensates for DMO.
- The procedure in seismic processing that compensates for the effects of a dipping
reflector. DMO processing was developed in the early 1980s.

~ 19 ~
- A pair of opposite (and equal) electrical charges. The strength of the dipole is a
vector quantity whose direction points from the positive to the negative charge
and whose magnitude is the product of the absolute value of the charge times the
separation. A point dipole is an idealized mathematical representation of a dipole
in which the separation of the charges goes to zero while their charge increases
so that the product (dipole strength) remains constant.
- Two poles of opposite polarity that can generate a field, such as an electric or
magnetic field or a dipole source and dipole receiver used in sonic logging for
excitation and detection of shear waves.
- A small antenna used in electromagnetic surveying that can be represented
mathematically as a dipole.

Directivity: The property of some seismic sources whereby the amplitude,

frequency, velocity or other property of the resulting seismic waves varies with
direction. A directional charge, such as a length of primer cord or a linear array of
charges, can be used when directivity is desirable. Directivity is also a property of
geophone arrays, air guns, explosives or vibrators, which can be positioned to
reduce horizontal traveling noise such as ground roll. Receivers in the form of
groups in which the individual geophones or hydrophones are separated from
each other in linear (1D) or areal (2D) arrays are directional, and are designed to
suppress signal arriving nearly horizontally and to pass nearly vertical arrivals
with minimum attenuation or distortion. Directivity is often present, but the
difficulty in accounting for it during seismic processing makes it undesirable in
most cases.

Discontinuity: A subsurface boundary or interface at which a physical quantity,

such as the velocity of transmission of seismic waves, changes abruptly. The
velocity of P-waves increases dramatically (from about 6.5 to 8.0 km/s) at the
Mohorovicic discontinuity between the Earth's crust and mantle.

Dispersion: A type of distortion of a wave train in which the velocity of the wave
varies with frequency. Surface waves and electromagnetic body waves typically
exhibit dispersion, whereas P-waves in most rocks show little change in velocity
with frequency.

- The movement of a particle by wave action, such as movement of rock grains
when a seismic wave shakes the ground.
- The horizontal distance between a seismic refraction depth point and the
geophone where refracted energy or refraction signal was recorded.

- The inability of a system to exactly match input and output, a general example
being an electronic amplifier and the classic example being a home stereophonic
amplifier. (amplitude distortion)
- A change in a waveform that is generally undesirable, such as in seismic waves.

Diurnal variation: The daily variation in properties of the Earth, such as the
temperature or the local geomagnetic field, or the daily change in sunlight. Such

~ 20 ~
variations depend in part on latitude, proximity to the ocean, the effects of solar
radiation and tides and other factors.

- The loss of energy from a wavefront as a consequence of geometrical spreading,
observable as a decrease in wave amplitude. Spherical divergence decreases
energy with the square of the distance. Cylindrical divergence decreases energy
with the distance.
- In mathematics, a process in which a sequence of numbers does not tend to a
fixed limit (the opposite of convergence). Divergence is a mathematical property
of a vector field that is a local measure of its rate of spreading.
- In Cartesian coordinates, divergence is the sum of the partial derivatives of each
component of the vector field with respect to the corresponding spatial

Dix formula: An equation used to calculate the interval velocity within a series of
flat, parallel layers, named for American geophysicist C. Hewitt Dix (1905 to
1984). Sheriff (1991) cautions that the equation is misused in situations that do
not match Dix's assumptions. The equation is as follows:

DMO: dip moveout

Dog leg: An abrupt turn, bend or change of direction in a survey line, a wellbore,
or a piece of equipment. Dog-legs can be described in terms of their length and
severity and quantified in degrees or degrees per unit of distance.

Domain: The set of values an independent variable can take. For example, the
independent variable of the time domain is time; and for the frequency domain, it
is frequency.

Doodlebugger: Slang term to describe a seismologist performing seismic field


Double refraction: birefringence

Downhole receiver: A receiver located in a wellbore, as opposed to a location on

the Earth's surface.

Downhole source: A seismic source located in a wellbore rather than at the

Earth's surface.

~ 21 ~
Downward continuation: A technique used to estimate the value of a potential
field or seismic data at a surface beneath a measured surface. The method is
risky because it assumes continuity of the field, so anomalies affect predictions,
especially if they occur beneath the measured surface. Noise can be exaggerated
and affect calculations adversely.

- In calibration of a check-shot survey, the difference between geometrically
corrected transit time and integrated sonic time.
- A gradual change in a measurement or recording device during surveying.
Reference to or repetition of a measurement at a base station can indicate
whether drift is a problem.

Drill-noise vertical seismic profile: A technique using the noise of the drill bit as
a source and receivers laid out along the ground to acquire a vertical seismic
profile (VSP). Acquisition and processing of a drill-noise VSP, also called a seismic-
while-drilling VSP, are typically a tougher task than for more conventional VSPs.
Drill-noise VSPs yield reliable time-depth information and sometimes reflection
information, and can be performed while a well is being drilled, so data from a
drill-noise VSP can be considered in decisions during drilling operations.

- The loss of information from a magnetic tape that occurs if the tape is damaged
or exposed to dirt.
- The failure of a channel or geophone to record a shot or shots in a seismic survey,
which results in a loss of data.

DSS: deep seismic sounding

Dynamic correction: A time-variant operation performed on seismic data. Normal

moveout (NMO) is a dynamic correction.

Dynamic range: The ratio of or difference between the highest and the lowest
reading, or strongest and weakest signal, that can be recorded or reproduced by
an instrument without distortion.

Dynamite: A type of explosive used as a source for seismic energy during data
acquisition. Originally, dynamite referred specifically to a nitroglycerin-based
explosive formulated in 1866 by Alfred Bernhard Nobel (1833 to 1896), the
Swedish inventor who endowed the Nobel prizes. The term is incorrectly used to
mean any explosive rather than the original formulation.

EDA: extensive dilatancy anisotropy

Eddy current: An alternating or transient electrical current in a conductive

medium in the presence of a time-varying magnetic field. The eddy current
generates its own electromagnetic field.

Eel: A hydrophone array in a cable that can be attached to a streamer for

acquisition of marine seismic data. The eel can be suspended from the streamer

~ 22 ~
so that the eel is close to the seafloor but the streamer remains high enough to
avoid obstacles on the seafloor such as reefs or debris from human activity.

Elastic constants / modulus of elasticity: A set of constants, also known as

elastic moduli, that defines the properties of material that undergoes stress,
deforms, and then recovers and returns to its original shape after the stress
ceases. The elastic constants include the bulk modulus, Lame constant, Poisson's
ratio, shear modulus, and Young's modulus. Elastic constants are important in
seismology because the velocity of waves depends on the elastic constants and
density of the rock.

Elastic deformation: A temporary change in shape caused by applied stress. The

change in shape is not permanent and the initial shape is completely recovered
once the stress is removed.

Elastic impedance: see acoustic impedance

Elastic wave: A seismic or acoustic wave, such as a P-wave.

Electrical conductivity (): The ability of a material to support the flow of an

electrical current. In linear isotropic materials, the electric current density at any
point in space is proportional to the electric field; the constant of proportionality is
the electrical conductivity. Conductivity is the inverse of resistivity in isotropic
materials, and is measured in siemens per meter or the archaic units of mhos per
meter. The electrical conductivity of the Earth can be measured by
electromagnetic methods.

Electrical permittivity / permittivity: The ability of a material to store a charge

from an applied electrical field without conducting electricity.

Electrical resistivity (): The ability of a material to resist or inhibit the flow of
an electrical current, measured in ohm-meters. Resistivity is the reciprocal of

Electromagnetic method: A group of techniques in which natural or artificially

generated electric or magnetic fields are measured at the Earth's surface or in
boreholes in order to map variations in the Earth's electrical properties (resistivity,
permeability or permittivity). Most applications of surface electromagnetic
methods today are for mineral and groundwater exploration or for shallow
environmental mapping. Electromagnetic or electrical logging is, however, the
main technique used in oil exploration to measure the amount of hydrocarbons in
the pores of underground reservoirs. Inductive electromagnetic (EM) methods
include a variety of low frequency (a few Hz to several kHz) techniques deploying
large or small wire coils at or near the surface. In older usage, "electromagnetic
method" tended to refer only to inductive methods. This term is now commonly
used for any method employing electromagnetic fields, including methods that
use direct current (electrical or resistivity methods) and induced polarization (IP),
methods that use microwave frequencies (ground-penetrating radar), and
methods that use natural electromagnetic fields (magnetotelluric methods).

~ 23 ~
Elevation correction: Any compensating factor used to bring measurements to a
common datum or reference plane. In gravity surveying, elevation corrections
include the Bouguer and free-air corrections. Seismic data undergo a static
correction to reduce the effects of topography and low-velocity zones near the
Earth's surface. Well log headers include the elevation of the drilling rig's kelly
bushing and, for onshore locations, the height of the location above sea level, so
that well log depths can be corrected to sea level.

Embedded wavelet / basic wavelet: The shape of a wavelet produced by

reflection of an actual wave train at one interface with a positive reflection
coefficient. The embedded wavelet is useful for generating a convolutional model,
or the convolution of an embedded wavelet with a reflectivity function and
random noise, during seismic processing or interpretation.

Equipotential method / applied-potential method: A technique to map a

potential field generated by stationary electrodes by moving an electrode around
the survey area.

Event: An appearance of seismic data as a diffraction, reflection, refraction or

other similar feature produced by an arrival of seismic energy. An event can be a
single wiggle within a trace, or a consistent lining up of several wiggles over
several traces. An event in a seismic section can represent a geologic interface,
such as a fault, unconformity or change in lithology.

Explosive seismic data: Surface seismic data acquired using an explosive energy
source, such as dynamite.

Extended spread: An in-line offset spread.

Extensive dilatancy anisotropy (EDA): A form of azimuthal anisotropy that

occurs when fractures or microcracks are not horizontal. Waves that travel parallel
to the fractures have a higher velocity than waves traveling perpendicular to

F-k domain: The use of frequency (abbreviated as f) and wavenumber (k, the
reciprocal of wavelength) as the reference framework, obtained by using the
Fourier transform over time and space.

F-k plot: A graphical technique to distinguish subsets of data according to their

direction and velocity by plotting and contouring frequency and wavenumber.

Fan shooting: A technique for acquiring seismic refraction data around local, high-
velocity features such as salt domes by using a fan or arc-shaped geophone array
around a central shotpoint. The data from the fan-shaped array are calibrated
against a control profile acquired some distance from the anomalous feature.

Fast Fourier transform (FFT): An iterative computer algorithm to perform the

Fourier transform of digitized waveforms rapidly.

Faye correction: free-air correction.

~ 24 ~
FD: Frequency domain.

Fermats principle: The principle that the path taken by a ray of light from one
point to another is that which takes the minimum time (or the maximum time in
select cases), named for its discoverer, French mathematician Pierre de Fermat
(1601 to 1665). Snell's law and the laws of reflection and refraction follow from
Fermat's principle. Fermat's principle also applies to seismic waves.

Field tape: A magnetic tape containing data recorded in the field, abbreviated FT.

- A process or algorithm using a set of limits used to eliminate unwanted portions of
seismic data, commonly on the basis of frequency or amplitude, to enhance the
signal-to-noise ratio of the data or to achieve deconvolution.
- To remove undesirable portions of data during seismic processing to increase the
signal-to-noise ratio of seismic data. Filtering can eliminate certain frequencies,
amplitudes or other information.

First arrival / First break: The earliest arrival of energy propagated from the
energy source at the surface to the geophone in the wellbore in vertical seismic
profiles and check-shot surveys, or the first indication of seismic energy on a
trace. On land, first breaks commonly represent the base of weathering and are
useful in making static corrections.

Fixed source method: An acquisition technique commonly used in

electromagnetic methods whereby the energy source or transmitter is kept in the
same position, and detectors or receivers are moved to different spots to compile
a profile or map.

Flattened section: A seismic section that has been redisplayed such that a
reflection of interest not horizontal in the original display appears horizontal and
flat. Such displays can shed light on geological conditions at the time a given
sedimentary layer accumulated.

Fold: A wave-like geologic structure that forms when rocks deform by bending
instead of breaking under compressional stress. Anticlines are arch-shaped folds
in which rock layers are upwardly convex. The oldest rock layers form the core of
the fold, and outward from the core progressively younger rocks occur. A syncline
is the opposite type of fold, having downwardly convex layers with young rocks in
the core. Folds typically occur in anticline-syncline pairs. The hinge is the point of
maximum curvature in a fold. The limbs occur on either side of the fold hinge. The
imaginary surface bisecting the limbs of the fold is called the axial surface. The
axial surface is called the axial plane in cases where the fold is symmetrical and
the lines containing the points of maximum curvature of the folded layers, or
hinge lines, are coplanar. Concentric folding preserves the thickness of each bed
as measured perpendicular to original bedding. Similar folds have the same wave
shape, but bed thickness changes throughout each layer, with thicker hinges and
thinner limbs.

~ 25 ~
- The area covered by an array of towed streamers in marine seismic acquisition.
- Variations in the properties of seismic data, encountered during processing, that
are related to the acquisition geometry and distort the amplitude and phase of
reflections. Also called acquisition footprint.

Forward problem: The practice of taking a model and calculating what the
observed values should be, such as predicting the gravity anomaly around a salt
dome using a gravity model or predicting the traveltime of a seismic wave from a
source to a receiver using a velocity model.

Four component seismic data (4C seismic data): Four-component (4C)

borehole or marine seismic data are typically acquired using three orthogonally-
oriented geophones and a hydrophone within an ocean-bottom sensor (deployed
in node-type systems as well as cables). Provided the system is in contact with
the seabed or the borehole wall, the addition of geophones allows measurement
of shear (S) waves, whereas the hydrophone measures compressional (P) waves.

Four dimensional seismic data (4D seismic data): Three-dimensional (3D)

seismic data acquired at different times over the same area to assess changes in
a producing hydrocarbon reservoir with time. Changes may be observed in fluid
location and saturation, pressure and temperature. 4D seismic data is one of
several forms of time-lapse seismic data. Such data can be acquired on the
surface or in a borehole.

Fourier analysis: The process of decomposing a function of time or space into a

sum (or integral) of sinusoidal functions (sines or cosines) with specific amplitudes
and phases.

Fourier synthesis: The process of reconstructing a function of time or space from

its sinusoidal components determined in Fourier analysis.

Fourier transform: A set of mathematical formulas used to convert a time

function, such as a seismic trace, to a function in the frequency domain (Fourier
analysis) and back (Fourier synthesis). The function is expressed as a convergent
trigonometric series, similar to that first formulated by French mathematician
Jean-Baptiste-Joseph, Baron Fourier (1768 to 1830). The Fourier transform is used
extensively in signal processing to design filters and remove coherent noise. Many
filtering operations are performed in the frequency domain. The Fourier transform
has applications in image analysis and in pattern recognition in geological

Free-air correction: In gravity surveying, a correction of 0.3086 mGal/m [0.09406

mGal/ft] added to a measurement to compensate for the change in the
gravitational field with height above sea level, assuming there is only air between
the measurement station and sea level.

Frequency: The rate of repetition of complete wavelengths of electrical signals,

light, sound and seismic waves measured in cycles per second, or hertz, and

~ 26 ~
symbolized by f. Typical recorded seismic frequencies are in the range of 5 to 100

Frequency domain (FD): In seismic surveying or processing, the use of a function

of frequency rather than time to express an independent variable or
measurement. In contrast, in the time domain, variables are expressed as a
function of time instead of frequency.

Fresnel zone: A frequency- and range-dependent area of a reflector from which

most of the energy of a reflection is returned and arrival times differ by less than
half a period from the first break, named for French physicist Augustin-Jean
Fresnel (1788 to 1827). Waves with such arrival times will interfere constructively
and so be detected as a single arrival. Subsurface features smaller than the
Fresnel zone usually cannot be detected using seismic waves.

FT: fieldtrip, Fourier transform.

Full-azimuth towed-streamer acquisition: A single-vessel technique of

acquiring marine seismic data at a complete range of azimuths by towing
streamers in a circular path..

Gain: The change in the amplitude of an electrical signal from the original input to
the amplified output.

Gas chimney: A subsurface leakage of gas from a poorly sealed hydrocarbon

accumulation. The gas can cause overlying rocks to have a low velocity. Gas
chimneys are visible in seismic data as areas of poor data quality or push-downs.

Gather: A display of seismic traces that share an acquisition parameter, such as a

common midpoint gather, which contains traces having a common midpoint.

Geometric: Pertaining to variation of the survey geometry while maintaining the

frequency of electromagnetic surveying. In contrast, parametric pertains to
keeping frequency the same while varying the geometry.

Geophone / jug / receiver / seismometer: A device used in surface seismic

acquisition, both onshore and on the seabed offshore, that detects ground
velocity produced by seismic waves and transforms the motion into electrical
impulses. Geophones detect motion in only one direction. Conventional seismic
surveys on land use one geophone per receiver location to detect motion in the
vertical direction. Three mutually orthogonal geophones are typically used in
combination to collect 3C seismic data. Hydrophones, unlike geophones, detect
changes in pressure rather than motion.

Geophone array: array, nest

Geophone cable: cable

Geophone interval / group interval: The distance between geophones or the

centers of groups of geophones.

~ 27 ~
Geophone offset: see offset

Geophone pattern: see array

Geophysicist: A scientist trained in the study of the physics of the Earth,

particularly its electrical, gravitational and magnetic fields and propagation of
elastic (seismic) waves within it. In the petroleum industry, geophysicists perform
a variety of functions, chiefly the processing and interpretation of seismic data
and generation of subsurface maps on the basis of seismic data. Such
interpretations enhance understanding of subsurface geology.

Geophysics: The study of the physics of the Earth, especially its electrical,
gravitational and magnetic fields and propagation of elastic (seismic) waves
within it. Geophysics plays a critical role in the petroleum industry because
geophysical data are used by exploration and development personnel to make
predictions about the presence, nature and size of subsurface hydrocarbon

Ghost: A short-path multiple, or a spurious reflection that occurs when seismic

energy initially reverberates upward from the shallow subsurface and then is
reflected downward, such as at the base of weathering or between sources and
receivers and the sea surface.

Gibbs phenomenon: The ringing near a discontinuity in a signal that is caused

by incomplete Fourier synthesis, or missing frequencies.

Gravimeter: A device used to measure the acceleration due to gravity, or, more
specifically, variations in the gravitational field between two or more points.

Gravimetry: The measurement of gravity or the study of its variations.

Gravity: The Earth's gravitational field, or the attractive force produced by the
mass of the Earth. Variations in the gravitational field can be used to map
changes in the density of formations in the Earth. Gravity surveys can be used to
map the extent or depth of sedimentary basins or even individual hydrocarbon

Gravity anomaly: The difference between the actual value of gravity measured at
a location and the value predicted by a particular Earth model. Gravity anomalies
are usually determined by adjusting the known value of (absolute) gravity at a
reference station by Bouguer, free-air or other corrections and subtracting the
final predicted value from the measurement. (A different description is that the
various corrections are subtracted from the data to reduce it to the reference
level. Both interpretations are valid provided it is remembered that the resulting
gravity anomaly can be caused by density anomalies-i.e., differences in density
between Earth and the theoretical model-that can lie anywhere either above or
below the reference level.)

Gravity survey: The measurement of gravitational acceleration over an area,

usually presented as a map or profile of Bouguer or free-air anomalies.

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- A regular spatial arrangement of points, such as x-y coordinates.
- To convert irregularly spaced points to a regular spacing by interpolation.

Ground roll: A type of coherent noise generated by a surface wave, typically a

low-velocity, low-frequency, high-amplitude Rayleigh wave. Ground roll can
obscure signal and degrade overall data quality, but can be alleviated through
careful selection of source and geophone arrays, filters and stacking parameters.

Group / patch: A set of seismometers whose output is sent to a common data

channel to record a seismic trace. A large group is known as a patch.

Group interval: geophone interval

Guided wave: channel wave

Gun: air gun

Halo effect: An anomaly that occurs as a ring around a feature, such as electrical
or geochemical rings around hydrocarbon accumulations.

Harmonic distortion: A nonlinear change in waveform in which simple multiples

of (1,2, ... n times) the input frequencies, or harmonics, are generated.

Head wave / refraction: A wave entering a relatively high-velocity medium

whose incident and refracted angle is the critical angle.

Header: The location, acquisition and processing parameters, and other pertinent
information attached to a well log, seismic record and traces.

Hertz: The unit of measurement of frequency, equivalent to one cycle per second
and symbolized by Hz. The unit is named after German physicist Heinrich Hertz
(1857 to 1894), who discovered electromagnetic waves.

- A graph or curve that displays time versus distance of motion.
- A crossplot of two components of particle motion over a time window. Hodograms
are used in borehole seismology to determine arrival directions of waves and to
detect shear-wave splitting. Data recorded along two geophone axes are
displayed as a function of time.

Horizon: An interface that might be represented by a seismic reflection, such as

the contact between two bodies of rock having different seismic velocity, density,
porosity, fluid content or all of those.

Horizon slice: A map view of a particular reflection in a 3D seismic survey, as

opposed to a horizontal (depth) slice or at a given time (a time slice). Slices are
convenient displays for visual inspection of seismic attributes, especially

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Hydrocarbon indicator / bright spot: A type of seismic amplitude anomaly,
seismic event, or characteristic of seismic data that can occur in a hydrocarbon-
bearing reservoir. Although "bright spots," as hydrocarbon indicators are loosely
called, can originate in numerous ways, they are not all indicative of the presence
of hydrocarbons. Criteria to distinguish true hydrocarbon indicators (sometimes
called HCIs) from other types of amplitude anomalies include:
amplitude variation with offset
bright or dim spot(s) in amplitude as a result of variations in lithology and
pore fluids, sometimes occurring in groups of stacked reservoirs
change or reversal in polarity because of velocity changes, also called
conformity with local structures
diffractions that emanate from fluid contacts
flat spot that represents a fluid (gas-oil or gas-water) contact, which can also
show the downdip limit of the reservoir in some cases
gas chimneys above leaking reservoirs
shadow zones below the accumulation
velocity push-down because of lower velocities of hydrocarbons than rocks
difference in response between reflected pressure and shear energy.
Hydrocarbon indicators are most common in relatively young, unconsolidated
siliciclastic sediments with large impedance contrasts across lithologic
boundaries, such as those in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore western Africa. An
ongoing issue in exploration for hydrocarbon indicators is the difficulty in
distinguishing between gas accumulations and water with a low degree of gas
saturation ("fizz water")

Hydrophone: A device designed for use in detecting seismic energy in the form of
pressure changes under water during marine seismic acquisition. Hydrophones
are combined to form streamers that are towed by seismic vessels or deployed in
a borehole. Geophones, unlike hydrophones, detect motion rather than pressure.

IIP: Inductive-source induced polarization.

- The apparent source of a received wave. The image is the point in the subsurface
that the rays would appear to have come from if they were not reflected, but were
shot up from below. A ray that travels from a source and is reflected to a
geophone has the same appearance as a ray that travels straight from the image
and up to the geophone.
- A representation that depicts the subsurface in two or more dimensions.
- In remote sensing, to record and interpret electromagnetic energy from the
surfaces of planets or satellites using photographic displays.

- In acoustics, the product of velocity times density, also called acoustic impedance
and symbolized by Z. The reflection coefficient of an interface depends on the
contrast in acoustic impedance of the rock on either side of the interface.
- In electromagnetics or electrical circuit theory, the ratio of voltage to current
when these are represented by phasor quantities in alternating current circuits. (A
phasor is a complex number that represents the amplitude and phase of a

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quantity that varies sinusoidally in time.) Electrical impedance, also symbolized
by Z, is a complex number that has the same units (ohms) as resistivity.

Impulsive seismic data: Seismic data whose energy source is impulsive and of
short duration, as with an air gun, rather than vibratory, as with a vibrator.

In-line: A seismic line within a 3D survey parallel to the direction in which the data
were acquired. In marine seismic data, the in-line direction is that in which the
recording vessel tows the streamers.

Incident angle: angel of incidence.

Inclinometer: An instrument used to measure the dip of the Earth's magnetic


Induced polarization (IP): An electromagnetic method that uses electrodes with

time-varying currents and voltages to map the variation of electrical permittivity
(dielectric constant) in the Earth at low frequencies. Induced polarization is
observed when a steady current through two electrodes in the Earth is shut off:
the voltage does not return to zero instantaneously, but rather decays slowly,
indicating that charge has been stored in the rocks. This charge, which
accumulates mainly at interfaces between clay minerals, is responsible for the IP
effect. This effect can be measured in either the time domain by observing the
rate of decay of voltage or in the frequency domain by measuring phase shifts
between sinusoidal currents and voltages. It is often used in exploration for
minerals and can sometimes distinguish different types of mineralization. The IP
method can probe to subsurface depths of thousands of meters.

Interpretation: In geophysics, analysis of data to generate reasonable models

and predictions about the properties and structures of the subsurface.
Interpretation of seismic data is the primary concern of geophysicists.

Interval time: The elapsed time between two seismic events.

Interval transit time / delta t / slowness / transit time: The amount of time
for a wave to travel a certain distance, proportional to the reciprocal of velocity,
typically measured in microseconds per foot by an acoustic log and symbolized by
t or DT. P-wave interval transit times for common sedimentary rock types range
from 43 (dolostone) to 160 (unconsolidated shales) microseconds per foot, and
can be distinguished from measurements of steel casing, which has a consistent
transit time of 57 microseconds per foot.

Interval velocity: The velocity, typically P-wave velocity, of a specific layer or

layers of rock, symbolized by vint and commonly calculated from acoustic logs or
from the change in stacking velocity between seismic events on a common
midpoint gather.

Interwell tomography: see crosswell tomography.

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Inverse problem: The problem of determining the value or spatial variation of a
physical property or feature by comparing measurements to the predictions of a
model. For example, seismic traveltimes from a source to a receiver can be used
to build a model of seismic velocity in the Earth, or earthquake arrival times can
be used to determine the timing and focus (location) of an earthquake. A typical
inverse problem in electromagnetics is to determine the variation of electrical
conductivity in the Earth from measurements of induced electric and magnetic
fields. A forward problem, in contrast, involves taking an assumed model and
calculating what the observed values should be, such as the predicting seismic
traveltimes between a source and a receiver given a velocity model..

Inversion : A mathematical process by which data are used to generate a model

that is consistent with the data, the process of solving the inverse problem. In
seismology, surface seismic data, vertical seismic profiles and well log data can
be used to perform inversion, the result of which is a model of Earth layers and
their thickness, density and P- and S-wave velocities. Successful seismic inversion
usually requires a high signal-to-noise ratio and a large bandwidth.

IP: induced polarization

Isochron: A line joining points of equal time or age, such as a reflection in a

seismic profile or contours in an isochron map.

Isochron map:
- A contour map that displays the variation in time between two seismic events or
- A contour map showing the traveltimes to one particular seismic event or

Isostatic correction: A correction for variations in the density or thickness of the

Earth's crust. Isostatic corrections are commonly applied to gravity data and are
made according to a specific model for isostasy.

Jug: Archaic slang for a geophone.

Jug hustler: Slang term for a member of a seismic acquisition crew or party who
lays out cables and plants geophones for seismic acquisition and collects them
after surveying.

Kirchhoff equation: A mathematical representation of the principle that a

wavefield at a given point in space and time can be considered as the
superposition of waves propagating from adjacent points and earlier times. It is an
integral form of the wave equation in which the wave function at a point is
represented as the sum (integral) of contributions from a surface enclosing the
given point. The Kirchhoff equation (also called the Kirchhoff integral) is the basis
for Kirchhoff migration.

Kirchhoff migration: A method of seismic migration that uses the integral form
(Kirchhoff equation) of the wave equation. All methods of seismic migration
involve the backpropagation (or continuation) of the seismic wavefield from the

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region where it was measured (Earth's surface or along a borehole) into the region
to be imaged. In Kirchhoff migration, this is done by using the Kirchhoff integral
representation of a field at a given point as a (weighted) superposition of waves
propagating from adjacent points and times. Continuation of the wavefield
requires a background model of seismic velocity, which is usually a model of
constant or smoothly varying velocity. Because of the integral form of Kirchhoff
migration, its implementation reduces to stacking the data along curves that
trace the arrival time of energy scattered by image points in the earth.

Kriging: A statistical technique used with variograms, or two-point statistical

functions that describe the increasing difference or decreasing correlation
between sample values as separation between them increases, to determine the
value of a point in a heterogeneous grid from known values nearby.

- The delay or difference in the arrival time of seismic events that can result from
weathering of the rocks or variations in geologic structures in the subsurface.
- A term used in seismic processing to describe the interval between the zero-time
of a crosscorrelation between two traces and the point of maximum correlation.
- The time delay of the onset of one sinusoidal oscillation, or frequency component
of a trace, relative to another. Also known as a "phase-lag."

Lame constant: One of two elastic constants named for French mathematician
Gabriel Lame (1795 to 1870). The first, the shear modulus, can be expressed as:

The other Lame constant is the bulk modulus less two-thirds of the shear modulus:

Laplace equation: A partial differential equation that governs potential fields (in
regions where there are no sources) and is equivalent, in three dimensions, to the
inverse square law of gravitational or electrical attraction. In Cartesian
coordinates, the Laplace equation equates the sum of the second partial (spatial)
derivatives of the field to zero. (When a source is present, this sum is equal to the
strength of the source and the resulting equation is called Poisson's equation).
The differential equation is named for French mathematician Pierre-Simon de
Laplace (1749 to 1827), and applies to electrical, gravity and magnetic fields.

Layer stripping: A method of seismic inversion whereby the effects of rock layers
having different seismic characteristics are removed from layers below.

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Least time path / Minimum-time path / brachistochrone: The fastest route
that a seismic ray can travel between two points, generally dictated by Fermat's

Lithostratigraphic inversion: A seismic inversion technique that attempts to

describe lithology of individual rock layers and evaluate properties and
distribution of pore fluids through analysis of variation of reflected seismic
amplitude with offset.

Long-path multiple: A type of multiply-reflected seismic energy that appears as

an event. Long-path multiples generate distinct events because their travel path
is much longer than primary reflections giving rise to them. They typically can be
removed by seismic processing.

Love wave / Q-wave: A type of surface wave in which particles oscillate

horizontally and perpendicularly to the direction of wave propagation.

Low velocity layer: see weathered layer.

Magnetic constant: see permeability

Magnetic permeability: permeability

Magnetic resonance / NMR / Nuclear magnetic resonance: A phenomenon by

which a nucleus absorbs electromagnetic radiation of a specific frequency in the
presence of a strong magnetic field. Isidor Isaac Rabi (1898 to 1988), an American
physicist born in Austria, first detected magnetic resonance in 1938. Since then,
magnetic resonance has been applied to the detection of light atoms (such as
hydrogen in hydrocarbons) and as a nondestructive way to study the human body.

Magnetics: The study of the Earth's magnetic field, a branch of geophysics that
began with the observation by British scientist William Gilbert (1544 to 1603) that
the Earth is a magnet. Variations in the magnetic field can be used to determine
the extent of sedimentary basins and the depth to basement rocks, as well as to
differentiate between igneous rocks and certain sedimentary rocks such as salt.
High-resolution magnetic surveys can also be used to determine the locations of
oil pipelines and production equipment.

Magnetometer: An instrument used to measure the strength or direction of the

Earth's magnetic field.

Magnetotelluric method (MT): An electromagnetic method used to map the

spatial variation of the Earth's resistivity by measuring naturally occurring electric
and magnetic fields at the Earth's surface. These natural EM fields are generated
(at all frequencies) in the Earth's atmosphere mainly by lightning strokes and by
interactions between the solar wind and the ionosphere. In the most general MT
method, the horizontal components of the electric field and all three components
of the magnetic field are measured at the surface. The measurements are used to
determine specific ratios of electric to magnetic field components called tensor
impedances. The technique was introduced the French geophysicist Louis

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Cagniard in the 1950s and has been popular for mineral exploration and regional
geophysical mapping. It is used in oil exploration for low-cost reconnaissance of
sedimentary basins and for exploration in areas where seismic surveys are
difficult because of severe topography or the presence high-impedance volcanic
rocks near the surface. The resolution of MT surveys is limited by the diffusive
nature of EM propagation in the earth; it is usually on the order of hundreds of
meters to kilometers. But the MT method can probe the Earth to depths of several
tens of kilometers.

Marker bed: A widespread distinctive rock unit that can be correlated readily over
a large area. The most useful marker beds tend to form rapidly, such as during
volcanic or geologically instantaneous depositional events, and have unusual
seismic, magnetic, electrical or other physical properties that aid geological or
geophysical interpretation. Coal beds and volcanic ash falls are examples of
marker beds.

Maxwells equations: A group of four partial differential equations that describe

all classical phenomena, involving electric and magnetic fields. James Clerk
Maxwell (1831 to 1879), a British physicist, first wrote out this complete set of

Equation (1) is equivalent to Coulomb's law, the inverse square attraction of static
electric charges. Equation (2) is Ampere's law relating magnetic fields and
currents, which was extended by Maxwell to include induction of a magnetic field
by a time-varying electric displacement. Equation (3) is Coulomb's law for
magnetic flux, expressing the absence of isolated magnetic charges. Equation (4)
is Faraday's law of induction, relating an electric field to a time-varying magnetic
flux. Maxwell's equations are the starting point for all calculations involving
surface or borehole EM methods

Midpoint: A The halfway point between a seismic source and a receiver at the
Earth's surface

Migration : A step in seismic processing in which reflections in seismic data are

moved to their correct locations in the x-y-time space of seismic data, including
two-way traveltime and position relative to shotpoints. Migration improves seismic
interpretation and mapping because the locations of geological structures,
especially faults, are more accurate in migrated seismic data. Proper migration
collapses diffractions from secondary sources such as reflector terminations

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against faults and corrects bow ties to form synclines. There are numerous
methods of migration, such as dip moveout (DMO), frequency domain, ray-trace
and wave-equation migration.

Minimum time path: Least time path.

Mis-tie: A situation in interpretation of seismic data in which predicted and actual

values differ, or when an interpreted reflection does not close, or tie, when
interpreting intersecting lines; or when interpreted seismic data do not match
results of drilling a well. Mis-ties commonly occur when data of different phases,
rather than uniformly zero-phase data, are interpreted together, or data that have
different datum corrections are tied. Mis-ties are described as static if they involve
a bulk shift of data (as in the case of tying seismic sections with different datum
corrections) or dynamic if the magnitude of the mis-tie varies with time (as in the
case of data that have been migrated differently).

Model / modeling: A representation of a physical property or entity that can be

used to make predictions or compare observations with assumptions.
Mathematical velocity models are commonly used to predict the depth to a
formation of interest. Physical models, such as layers of clay or putty, can be used
to simulate rock layers. As Sheriff (1991) points out, agreement between data and
a model does not prove that the model is correct, since there can be numerous
models that agree with a given data set.

Modeling: seismic modeling.

Modulus of compression: see bulk modulus

Modulus of elasticity: see elastic constants

Modulus of rigidity: shear moduls

Monument / benchmark : A relatively permanent, fixed marker used in

surveying, such as a concrete block or steel plate, with an inscription of location
and elevation.

- The difference in the arrival times or traveltimes of a reflected wave measured by
receivers at two different offset locations. Normal moveout (NMO) is moveout
caused by the separation between a source and a receiver in the case of a flat
reflector. Dip moveout (DMO) occurs as an effect in addition to NMO when
reflectors dip. Problems that require static corrections can also produce moveout
- The procedure in seismic processing that compensates for the effects of the
separation between seismic sources and receivers.

Moving-source method: An acquisition technique most commonly used in

electromagnetic methods whereby the energy source or transmitter and detectors
or receivers are kept in the same relative position and moved together to different
spots to compile a profile or map.

MT: Magnetotelluric method

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Multiazimuth towed-streamer acquisition: A marine seismic data acquisition
method in which a conventional narrow-azimuth towed-streamer configuration is
used to acquire data over a survey area in more than one direction. The number
of directions is typically three or more. The azimuthal range for a multiazimuth
survey is not continuous in azimuth, but is well sampled along the shooting

Multicomponent seismic data: Seismic data acquired in a land, marine, or

borehole environment by using more than one geophone or accelerometer. 3C
seismic data, a type of multicomponent seismic data, uses three orthogonally
oriented geophones or accelerometers. 4C seismic data, another type of
multicomponent seismic data, involves the addition of a hydrophone to three
orthogonally oriented geophones or accelerometers. 3C multicomponent seismic
data is particularly appropriate when the addition of a hydrophone (the basis for
4C seismic data) adds no value to the measurement, for example, on land. This
technique allows determination of both the type of wave and its direction of

Multiple reflection: Multiply reflected seismic energy, or any event in seismic

data that has incurred more than one reflection in its travel path. Depending on
their time delay from the primary events with which they are associated,
multiples are characterized as short-path or peg-leg, implying that they interfere
with the primary reflection, or long-path, where they appear as separate events.
Multiples from the water bottom (the interface of the base of water and the rock
or sediment beneath it) and the air-water interface are common in marine seismic
data, and are suppressed by seismic processing.

Mute: To remove the contribution of selected seismic traces in a stack to minimize

air waves, ground roll and other early-arriving noise. Low-frequency traces and
long-offset traces are typical targets for muting.

Narrow-azimuth seismic data: Conventional marine seismic data acquired using

a single vessel to tow one or two seismic source arrays in front of a receiver
spread. The resulting angle between the source and receivers, is about 20.

Natural frequency: The frequency of the normal, free oscillation or vibration of an

entity or a system, such as the vibration of a tuning fork when struck or the open
string of a musical instrument when plucked. A system oscillating at its natural
frequency is said to resonate.

Natural remanent magnetism (NRM): The magnetization retained by rocks

from previous magnetic fields,abbreviated NRM. NRM is a record of the Earth's
magnetic field as it existed at the time that the rock formed, such as when
magnetic crystals in igneous rocks solidified (also known as chemical remanent
magnetism, CRM) or at the time of deposition of sedimentary rocks (known as
depositional remanent magnetism, DRM). During deposition of sediments that
become sedimentary rock, magnetized particles can settle with their magnetic
pole aligned with that of the Earth at that time.

~ 37 ~
Near surface correction: static correction

Nest / geophone array: A geophone array. Nests can contain numerous closely
spaced geophones.

NMO: normal moveout

NMR: nuclear magnetic resonance

Noise: Anything other than desired signal. Noise includes disturbances in seismic
data caused by any unwanted seismic energy, such as shot generation ground
roll, surface waves, multiples, effects of weather and human activity, or random
occurrences in the Earth. Noise can be minimized by using source and receiver
arrays, generating minimal noise during acquisition and by filtering and stacking
data during processing.

Normal incidence: The case in which a wavefront is parallel to an interface and

its raypath is perpendicular, or normal, to the interface as the wave impinges
upon the interface.

Normal moveout:
- The effect of the separation between receiver and source on the arrival time of a
reflection that does not dip, abbreviated NMO. A reflection typically arrives first at
the receiver nearest the source. The offset between the source and other
receivers induces a delay in the arrival time of a reflection from a horizontal
surface at depth. A plot of arrival times versus offset has a hyperbolic shape.
- The procedure in seismic processing that compensates for the effects of the
separation between seismic sources and receivers in the case of a horizontal

Normal moveout correction: A function of time and offset that can be used in
seismic processing to compensate for the effects of normal moveout, or the delay
in reflection arrival times when geophones and shotpoints are offset from each

NRM: natural remanent magnetism

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR): Pertaining to a measurement of the

nuclear magnetic properties of formation hydrogen. The basic core and log
measurement is the T2 decay, presented as a distribution of T2 amplitudes versus
time at each sample depth, typically from 0.3 ms to 3 s. The T2 decay is further
processed to give the total pore volume (the total porosity) and pore volumes
within different ranges of T2. The most common volumes are the bound fluid and
free fluid. A permeability estimate is made using a transform such as the Timur-
Coates or SDR permeability transforms. By running the log with different
acquisition parameters, direct hydrocarbon typing and enhanced diffusion are

OBC: ocean bottom cable

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Observer: The director of a seismic acquisition field crew who operates the
recording equipment.

Occams inversion: A technique for inversion, or generating a model that is

consistent with the data, of electromagnetic data, including resistivity and
magnetotelluric data. The algorithm is named for William of Occam (1300 to
1349), who asserted that scientific hypotheses and reasoning should be as simple
as possible. The use of Occam's inversion produces a smooth model that fits a
data set within certain tolerances, although a smooth model might not be the best
fit to the data.

Ocean-bottom cable (OBC): Typically an assembly of vertically oriented

geophones and hydrophones connected by electrical wires and deployed on the
seafloor to record and relay data to a seismic recording vessel. Such systems
were originally introduced to enable surveying in areas of obstructions (such as
production platforms) or shallow water inaccessible to ships towing seismic
streamers (floating cables). Recent developments provide four component (4C)
seabed systems to record shear wave (S-wave) as well as P-wave energy.

Offset / offset well: The horizontal displacement between points on either side of
a fault, which can range from millimeters to kilometers. Perhaps the most readily
visible examples of offset are features such as fences or roads that have been
displaced by strike-slip faults, such as the San Andreas fault of California, USA.

Offset vertical seismic profile (Offset VSP): A type of vertical seismic profile in
which the source is located at an offset from the drilling rig during acquisition.
This allows imaging to some distance away from the wellbore.

Ohms law: The relationship between voltage (V), electric current (I) and
resistance (R), named for German physicist Georg Simon Ohm (1789 to 1854),
commonly expressed as the formula below: V/I = R

One-dimensional seismic data (1D seismic data):

- A check-shot survey of a well, which can be used to correct the sonic log and
generate a synthetic seismogram that displays changes in amplitude versus
- A single seismic trace

One-way time: The time measured from a check-shot survey or vertical seismic
profile (VSP), which is the time energy takes to travel from an energy source at
the surface of the Earth to a receiver at a depth of interest.

P-wave / acoustic wave / compressional wave / dilatational wave: An elastic

body wave or sound wave in which particles oscillate in the direction the wave
propagates. P-waves are the waves studied in conventional seismic data. P-waves
incident on an interface at other than normal incidence can produce reflected and
transmitted S-waves, in that case known as converted waves.


~ 39 ~
- Pertaining to variation of the frequency while maintaining the geometry of
electromagnetic surveying. In contrast, geometric pertains to keeping the same
geometry while varying the frequency.
- Pertaining to a method of seismic inversion to separate wavefields by iteratively
developing a model of the data that conforms to the recorded data. Parametric
inversion is used in processing vertical seismic profile (VSP) data.

Party: A crew that acquires a survey or geophysical data.

Party chief: The ultimate leader of a survey crew..

Party manager: The actual leader of a survey crew. The party manager reports to
the party chief..

Patch: see group

Peak: The maximum positive or upward deflection, also known as the crest, of the
seismic wavelet. The trough is the maximum negative amplitude or downward
deflection of the wave. Seismic interpreters commonly pick or interpret seismic
data on paper sections along the trough of a wavelet rather than the normally
solid-filled peak for ease of viewing.

Peg-leg multiple: A type of short-path multiple, or multiply-reflected seismic

energy, having an asymmetric path. Short-path multiples are added to primary
reflections, tend to come from shallow subsurface phenomena and highly cyclical
deposition, and can be suppressed by seismic processing. In some cases, the
period of the peg-leg multiple is so brief that it interferes with primary reflections,
and its interference causes a loss of high frequencies in the wavelet.

Permeability : In magnetics, the ratio of the density of the magnetic flux, B (in
units of teslas), to the strength of the magnetic field, H (in units of
amperes/meter), typically in units of H/m.

Permittivity: see electrical permittivity.

Perpendicular offset: Generally, the distance between a receiver and a source in

a survey, such as an electromagnetic survey. In seismic surveys, perpendicular or
normal offset is the component of the distance between the source and
geophones at a right angle to the spread.

Phantom: An interpretation of the presumed continuation of an event. In areas of

discontinuous, divergent reflectors or incoherent data, drawing phantoms allows
the interpreter to generate a map on a discontinuous event.

~ 40 ~
Phase: A description of the motion of, or means of comparison of, periodic waves
such as seismic waves. Waves that have the same shape, symmetry and
frequency and that reach maximum and minimum values simultaneously are in
phase. Waves that are not in phase are typically described by the angular
difference between them, such as, "180 degrees out of phase." Zero-phase
wavelets are symmetrical in shape about zero time whereas non-zero-phase
wavelets are asymmetrical. Non-zero-phase wavelets are converted to zero-phase
wavelets to achieve the best resolution of the seismic data. Known (zero) phase
well synthetics and vertical seismic profiles (VSPs) can be compared with local
surface seismic data to determine the relative phase of the surface seismic
wavelets. Such knowledge allows the surface seismic data to be "corrected" to
zero phase. The units of phase are degrees.

- A feature interpreted or selected from data, such as a seismic event. Correlation
of seismic picks to geologic picks, such as formation tops interpreted from well
logs, can improve interpretations.
- To interpret data, such as seismic sections, by selecting and tracking marker beds
or other events.

Plane wave: A wave that is far enough from its source that its wavefront has no
effective curvature, or is planar, over a short distance. Seismic and
electromagnetic waves are treated as plane waves even though that assumption
is not strictly correct.

Plant: To place seismometers on the ground. The seismometer should be firmly

stuck or planted in the ground in the proper location and orientation for optimal
seismic acquisition.

Poissons ratio: An elastic constant that is a measure of the compressibility of

material perpendicular to applied stress, or the ratio of latitudinal to
longitudinal strain. This elastic constant is named for Simeon Poisson (1781 to
1840), a French mathematician. Poisson's ratio can be expressed in terms of
properties that can be measured in the field, including velocities of P-waves and
S-waves as shown below.

Note that if VS = 0, then Poisson's ratio equals 1/2, indicating either a fluid,
because shear waves do not pass through fluids, or a material that maintains
constant volume regardless of stress, also known as an ideal incompressible
material. VS approaching zero is characteristic of a gas reservoir. Poisson's ratio
for carbonate rocks is ~ 0.3, for sandstones ~0.2, and above 0.3 for shale. The
Poisson's ratio of coal is ~ 0.4.

Polarity: The nature of the positive and negative portions of the seismic wavelet,
the positive and negative aspects of electrical equipment, or the north and south
orientations of magnets and the Earth's magnetic field.

~ 41 ~
Polarity standard: The convention adopted by the Society of Exploration
Geophysicists (SEG) for the display of zero-phase seismic data. If the signal arises
from a reflection that indicates an increase in acoustic impedance, the polarity is,
by convention, positive and is displayed as a peak. If the signal arises from a
reflection that indicates a decrease in acoustic impedance, the polarity is negative
and is displayed as a trough. There is another standard for minimum-phase data.
In order to interpret seismic data acquired at different times within a region, to
model data, or to assess bright or dim spots, some knowledge of the polarity of
the data is essential to correlate or tie data properly.

Post: To annotate a map or other display with data at the appropriate location. For
example, geologists post formation tops on well logs, isopach maps and seismic
profiles. Geophysicists post velocity values and traveltimes on maps before
contouring. Engineers contour maps posted with pressure or production data.
Posting can become an iterative process as new data become available and
interpretations are updated.

Potential field: A field that satisfies the Laplace equation. The Laplace equation is
equivalent in three dimensions to the inverse square law of gravitational or
electrical attraction (in source-free regions; in regions with sources, it becomes
Poisson's equation). Examples of potential fields include the field of the gravity
potential and static electric and magnetic fields.

Primary reflection: Seismic events whose energy has been reflected once.
Multiples, in contrast, are events whose energy has been reflected more than
once. A goal of seismic data processing is to enhance primary reflections, which
are then interpreted as subsurface interfaces.

Probe / sound: In electromagnetic methods, to measure the variation of a

property versus depth, including electrical, electromagnetic and magnetotelluric
properties. Probing differs from profiling in that the goal of probing is to provide a
record of vertical changes, whereas profiling documents lateral variations.

Probing: probe

Processing / seismic processing: Alteration of seismic data to suppress noise,

enhance signal and migrate seismic events to the appropriate location in space.
Processing steps typically include analysis of velocities and frequencies, static
corrections, deconvolution, normal moveout, dip moveout, stacking, and
migration, which can be performed before or after stacking. Seismic processing
facilitates better interpretation because subsurface structures and reflection
geometries are more apparent.

Production: A measure of the efficiency of seismic acquisition. Production can be

expressed in terms of the number of lines, shots or lengths (km or miles) of data
acquired in a given time.

Profile / Profiling: To measure the lateral variation of a property, such as gravity

or magnetic fields. Probing, in contrast, is the term used to describe the

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measurement of vertical variations of a property in electromagnetic and other
nonseismic geophysical methods.

Propagation constant: A property of a sinusoidal plane wave equal to twice pi

divided by the wavelength. Also known as the wavenumber, the propagation
constant is fundamental to the mathematical representation of wavefields. It is
the spatial equivalent of angular frequency and expresses the increase in the
cycle of the wave (measured in radians) per unit of distance. In nondispersive
media, the wavespeed is the ratio of the angular frequency to the propagation
constant. The propagation vector has magnitude equal to the propagation
constant and points in the direction the wave is traveling.

Pull-up: A phenomenon of relative seismic velocities of strata whereby a shallow

layer or feature with a high seismic velocity (e.g., a salt layer or salt dome, or a
carbonate reef) surrounded by rock with a lower seismic velocity causes what
appears to be a structural high beneath it. After such features are correctly
converted from time to depth, the apparent structural high is generally reduced in

Push-down: A phenomenon of relative seismic velocities of strata whereby a

shallow layer or feature with a low seismic velocity (e.g., a shale diapir or a gas
chimney) surrounded by rock with a higher seismic velocity causes what appears
to be a structural low beneath it. After such features are converted from time to
depth, the apparent structural low is generally reduced in magnitude.
Hydrocarbon indicators can display velocity push-downs because the velocity of
hydrocarbon is slower than that of rock.

Q: The dimensionless quality factor. It is the ratio of the peak energy of a wave to
the dissipated energy. As waves travel, they lose energy with distance and time
due to spherical divergence and absorption. Such energy loss must be accounted
for when restoring seismic amplitudes to perform fluid and lithologic
interpretations, such as amplitude versus offset (AVO) analysis. Q is also
described as the reciprocal of attenuation, but that is not strictly correct because
the attenuation coefficient has units of inverse length.

Q-wave: love wave

- A subset of a 3D seismic survey comprising low fold or simplified processing (such
as omitting dip moveout processing) that can be evaluated soon after acquisition.
- Borehole seismic data processed on site in the field.

Radial array: An array of sources or receivers radiating outward from a central

point, usually a borehole.

Radial refraction:
- A surveying technique used to identify local, high-velocity features such as salt
domes, also called fan shooting.

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- A borehole seismic method in which a surface source transmits seismic energy
from various locations to a receiver in a wellbore to locate high-velocity features
such as salt domes.

Random noise: Disturbances in seismic data that are not coherent (they lack a
phase relationship between adjacent traces, unlike air waves and ground roll) and
cannot be correlated to the seismic energy source. Random noise can be reduced
or removed from data by stacking traces, filtering during processing or using
arrays of geophones during acquisition.

Rarefaction: A dilatation, or decrease in pressure and density of a medium as

molecules are displaced by a P-wave. As P-waves pass through the Earth, the
Earth undergoes compression and expansion. These changes in volume contribute
to the positive and negative amplitudes of a seismic trace.

Ray tracing: A technique for predicting or determining arrival times of waves at

detectors using raypaths. Ray tracing requires a velocity model and the
assumption that rays behave according to Snell's law. Ray tracing provides the
traveltimes that are required for Kirchhoff migration.

Rayleigh wave: A type of surface wave in which particles move in an elliptical

path within the vertical plane containing the direction of wave propagation. At the
top of the elliptical path, particles travel opposite to the direction of propagation,
and at the bottom of the path they travel in the direction of propagation. Because
Rayleigh waves are dispersive, with different wavelengths traveling at different
velocities, they are useful in evaluation of velocity variation with depth. Rayleigh
waves make up most of the energy recorded as ground roll.

Raypath: The path or direction along which wave energy propagates through the
Earth. In isotropic media, the raypath is perpendicular to the local wavefront. The
raypath can be calculated using ray tracing. Seismic energy travels through
media of variable anisotropy and can propagate by diffraction, factors that
complicate determination of raypaths.

Receiver: A device that detects seismic energy in the form of ground motion or a
pressure wave in fluid and transforms it to an electrical impulse..

To detect and measure energy.
In seismic data, the energy detected and measured by a receiver. Normally, most
of the energy is provided by a seismic source. Noise records are obtained in the
absence of a seismic source to measure background or ambient noise levels.

Reflection: Generally, the return or rebound of particles or energy from the

interface between two media. There are two laws of reflection, which state (1)
that incident rays, reflected rays and the normal to the reflecting interface at the
point of incidence are coplanar, and (2) that the angle of incidence is equal to the
angle of reflection. In geophysics, reflection refers to the seismic energy or signal
that returns from an interface of contrasting acoustic impedance, known as a
reflector, according to Snell's law. Reflection seismic surveys are useful for

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mapping geologic structures in the subsurface, interpreting sedimentary
environments and evaluating hydrocarbon accumulations that might occur as
amplitude anomalies. Reflection surveys are complicated by the variation of
velocity as well as the various types of wave energy that are propagated within
the Earth. In electromagnetics, variation in electrical properties produces

Reflection coefficient / reflectivity: The ratio of amplitude of the reflected wave

to the incident wave, or how much energy is reflected. If the wave has normal
incidence, then its reflection coefficient can be expressed as:

Typical values of R are approximately -1 from water to air, meaning that nearly
100% of the energy is reflected and none is transmitted; ~ 0.5 from water to rock;
and ~ 0.2 for shale to sand. At non-normal incidence, the reflection coefficient
defined as a ratio of amplitudes depends on other parameters, such as
the shear velocities, and is described as a function of incident angle by the
Zoeppritz equations

Reflection tomography / seismic reflection tomography: A technique to

measure and display the three-dimensional distribution of velocity or reflectivity
of a volume of the Earth by using numerous sources and receivers at the Earth's
surface. In reflection tomography, space is divided into cells, each having a
certain velocity and reflectivity. The final model is the one whose velocities and
reflectivities best describe the data.

Reflector: An interface between layers of contrasting acoustic, optical or

electromagnetic properties. Waves of electromagnetism, heat, light and sound
can be reflected at such an interface. In seismic data, a reflector might represent
a change in lithology, a fault or an unconformity. A reflector is expressed as a
reflection in seismic data.

Refraction / head wave: The change in the direction of travel of a wavefront, or

the bending of a ray, as it passes from one medium to another, expressed
mathematically by Snell's law. Refraction is a consequence of changes in
wavelength and velocity of propagation of a wave produced by differences in
refractive indices of the media. Refraction surveys where the incident and
reflected angles are critical can be useful for evaluating increasing velocity
gradients and locating features that have anomalously high velocities, such a salt
dome within surrounding rocks of lower velocities.

Refractive index: The ratio of the speed of light in a vacuum to the speed of light
in a given material, commonly symbolized by n. According to Snell's law, the
refractive index is also the ratio of sine of the angle of incidence to the sine of the
angle of refraction.

~ 45 ~
Refractor: A layer of rock that is sufficiently thick, areally extensive, and has a
distinctly higher velocity than the rocks immediately above it such that it can
transmit a head wave, or a wave transmitted at its critical incident angle.

Remote sensing: The process of measuring, observing or analyzing features of

the Earth from a distance. Satellite photography and radar are techniques
commonly used for remote sensing. Many geophysicists do not consider seismic
methods to be remote sensing because although seismic methods sense the
subsurface remotely, the sources and receivers are in contact with the Earth.

Replacement velocity: An acoustic velocity value used during processing to

produce static, vertical shifts in seismic and other time domain data in order to
bring a specific point into alignment with some common elevation feature. Most
often, the point in question is the 0.0 s time point, while the elevation feature is
ground level. In other cases, the elevation feature may be arbitrary, such as 300
m above mean sea level..

Resolution: The ability to distinguish between separate points or objects, such as

sedimentary sequences in a seismic section. High frequency and short
wavelengths provide better vertical and lateral resolution. Seismic processing can
greatly affect resolution: deconvolution can improve vertical resolution by
producing a broad bandwidth with high frequencies and a relatively compressed
wavelet. Migration can improve lateral resolution by reducing the size of the
Fresnel zone.

Rich-azimuth towed-steamer acquisition: A marine seismic data acquisition

method using one or more seismic vessels to obtain a combination of
multiazimuth and wide-azimuth geometries. A rich-azimuth seismic dataset can
be formed by combining the data where multiple wide-azimuth surveys intersect.

Ricker wavelet: A zero-phase wavelet commonly convolved with a reflectivity

trace to generate a synthetic seismogram.

Rock mechanics: The study of the physical characteristics and behavior of rock.
Rock mechanics can include analysis of and relationships between properties such
as velocity, density, porosity, permeability, shear strength, and bending and
crushing behavior, as well as the greater geological context of forces that deform
strata and produce geological structures.

Root-mean-square velocity: The value of the square root of the sum of the
squares of the velocity values divided by the number of values, symbolized by
vrms. The root-mean-square velocity is that of a wave through subsurface layers
of different interval velocity along a specific raypath, and is typically several
percent higher than the average velocity. The stacking velocity and the root-
mean-square velocity approach equality when source-receiver offset approaches
zero and layers are horizontal and isotropic.

S-wave / tangential wave: An elastic body wave in which particles oscillate

perpendicular to the direction in which the wave propagates. S-waves are

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generated by most land seismic sources, but not by air guns. P-waves that
impinge on an interface at non-normal incidence can produce S-waves, which in
that case are known as converted waves. S-waves can likewise be converted to P-
waves. S-waves, or shear waves, travel more slowly than P-waves and cannot
travel through fluids because fluids do not support shear. Recording of S-waves
requires receivers coupled to the solid Earth. Interpretation of S-waves can allow
determination of rock properties such as fracture density and orientation,
Poisson's ratio and rock type by crossplotting P-wave and S-wave velocities, and
by other techniques.

Salt proximity survey: A type of refraction survey to help define a salt-sediment

interface near a wellbore. The source is typically placed directly above the top of
a salt dome and the receivers are placed at a number of locations within the
borehole. This technique takes advantage of the fact that sound travels faster
through the salt than the surrounding soft sediments, such as in the US Gulf
Coast. This survey measures the fastest travel path, with part of its path through
the salt. The resultant traveltimes are then inverted via a model to obtain a profile
of the salt flanks relative to the borehole.

Salt-proximity vertical seismic profile: A type of reflection survey to help

define a salt-sediment interface near a wellbore.

Sample frequency: The number of data points or measurements per unit of time
or distance.

Sample interval: The distance or time between data points or measurements.

Sample rate: The number of measurements per unit of time, or the inverse of the
sample interval..

Seabed geophone: A type of receiver that can be positioned on the seafloor to

acquire seismic data.

Secondary reflection: multiple reflection

Seismic: Pertaining to waves of elastic energy, such as that transmitted by P-

waves and S-waves, in the frequency range of approximately 1 to 100 Hz. Seismic
energy is studied by scientists to interpret the composition, fluid content, extent
and geometry of rocks in the subsurface. "Seismic," used as an adjective, is
preferable to "seismics," although "seismics" is used commonly as a noun.

Seismic acquisition: acquisition

Seismic impedance: impedance

Seismic interpretation: interpretation

Seismic line: seismic section

Seismic modeling / modeling: The comparison, simulation or representation of

seismic data to define the limits of seismic resolution, assess the ambiguity of

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interpretation or make predictions. Generation of a synthetic seismogram from a
well log and comparing the synthetic, or modeled trace, with seismic data is a
common direct modeling procedure. Generating a set of pseudologs from seismic
data is the process known as seismic inversion, a type of indirect modeling.
Models can be developed to address problems of structure and stratigraphy prior
to acquisition of seismic data and during the interpretation of the data. As Sheriff
(1991) points out, agreement between data and a model does not prove that the
model is correct, since there can be numerous models that agree with a given
data set.

Seismic processing: processing

Seismic record / seismogram: Traces recorded from a single shotpoint.

Numerous seismic records are displayed together in a single seismic section.

Seismic reflection tomography: reflection tomography

Seismic refraction method: refraction

Seismic section: A display of seismic data along a line, such a 2D seismic profile
or a profile extracted from a volume of 3D seismic data. A seismic section consists
of numerous traces with location given along the x-axis and two-way traveltime or
depth along the y-axis. The section is called a depth section if the section has
been converted from time to depth and a time section if this has not been done.

Seismic stratigraphy / Sequence stratigraphy: A field of study in which basin-

filling sedimentary deposits, called sequences, are interpreted in a framework of
eustasy, sedimentation and subsidence through time in order to correlate strata
and predict the stratigraphy of relatively unknown areas.

Seismic survey: survey

Seismic trace / trace: The seismic data recorded for one channel. A seismic trace
represents the response of the elastic wavefield to velocity and density contrasts
across interfaces of layers of rock or sediments as energy travels from a source
through the subsurface to a receiver or receiver array.

Seismic velocity: velocity

Seismic wave: wave

Seismic-while-drilling vertical seismic profile: A technique for acquiring a

vertical seismic profile that uses the noise of the drill bit as a source and receivers
laid out along the ground or seabed; also called a drill-noise VSP. In deep water,
the receiver arrays can be deployed vertically. Acquisition and processing are
typically more challenging than in the more conventional types of VSPs, but the
while-drilling technique can yield immediate time-depth information and, less
frequently, reflection information. The information from a drill-noise VSP can be
used to improve time-depth conversions while drilling, decide where to set casing
in a well and evaluate drilling hazards, such as anomalous pore pressure.

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Seismogram: seismic record

Seismograph: A device or system that records the ground oscillations that make
up exploration seismic data or earthquakes, sometimes used incorrectly as a
synonym for geophone. A seismograph can include amplifiers, receivers and a
recording device (such as a computer disk or magnetic tape) to record
seismograms. A crude seismograph was built in 1855 by Italian physicist Luigi
Palmieri (1807 to 1896). The modern seismograph, which used a pendulum, was
invented in 1880 by James Ewing, Thomas Gray and Sir John Milne.

Seismology: The study of seismic or elastic waves, such as from earthquakes,

explosions or other causes. Interpretation of the structure and composition of the
Earth from artificially created seismic waves is a chief concern of seismologists
exploring for hydrocarbons and other resources. English physicist John Mitchell
(1724 to 1793) is known as the founder of seismology in part because of his
observation that one can determine an earthquake's epicenter, or point of origin
in the subsurface, by measuring the arrival time of earthquake waves at different
locations. The invention of the modern seismograph in 1880 promoted further
studies of earthquakes.

Seismometer: A device that records seismic energy in the form of ground motion
and transforms it to an electrical impulse. Synonyms : geophone, jug, receiver.

Semblance: A quantitative measure of the coherence of seismic data from

multiple channels that is equal to the energy of a stacked trace divided by the
energy of all the traces that make up the stack. If data from all channels are
perfectly coherent, or show continuity from trace to trace, the semblance has a
value of unity.

Sensitivity: The smallest change in a measurement that can be recorded by an


SH-wave: A shear wave that is polarized so that its particle motion and direction of
propagation are contained in a horizontal plane.

Shadow zone: Generally, an area of the Earth from which waves do not emerge or
cannot be recorded. In seismology, the term is used to more specifically describe
regions of the subsurface where P-waves and S-waves are difficult to detect, such
as regions of the core at certain distances from the epicenter of an earthquake, or
the point on the Earth's surface directly above an earthquake. Such zones were
first observed in 1914 by Beno Gutenberg (1889 to 1960), an American geologist
born in Germany. Because of the molten nature of the outer core, S-waves are
especially difficult to detect at 103 to 142 degrees from the epicenter of an
earthquake and not observable from 142 to 180 degrees from the epicenter. Areas
below salt features are also called shadow zones because the high velocity of salt
bends and traps energy, so seismic data quality beneath salt is generally poor
unless special seismic processing is performed.

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Shaped charge / Perforating charge: Explosives designed to affect a certain
direction preferentially. Shaped charges are most commonly used to perforate
wells, but can be an energy source for seismic acquisition.

Shear: A type of vertical seismic profile in which the source is a shear-wave source
rather than a compressional-wave source. Shear waves travel through the Earth
at about half the speed of compressional waves and respond differently to fluid-
filled rock, and so can provide different additional information about lithology and
fluid content of hydrocarbon-bearing reservoirs.

Shear modulus / modulus of rigidity: An elastic constant for the ratio

of shear stress to shear strain. The shear modulus is one of the Lame constants. It
can be expressed mathematically as follows:
= (F/A)/(L/L)
Where = shear modulus, F = shear stress, A = Area, L = distance between
shering planes, L = shear displacement.

Shear wave: S-wave

Shoot a well: see check-shot survey

Short-path multiple: Multiply-reflected seismic energy with a shorter travel path

than long-path multiples. Short-path multiples tend to come from shallow
subsurface phenomena or highly cyclical sedimentation and arrive soon after, and
sometimes very near, the primary reflections. Short-path multiples are less
obvious than most long-path multiples and are less easily removed by seismic

Shot depth: The location of an explosive seismic source below the surface. Before
acquisition of surface seismic data onshore using explosive sources such as
dynamite, holes are drilled at shotpoints and dynamite is placed in the holes. The
shotholes can be more than 50 m [164 ft] deep, although depths of 6 to 30 m [20
to 98 ft] are most common and depth is selected according to local conditions.
With other "surface" sources, such as vibrators and shots from air shooting, the
shots occur at the Earth's surface.

Shotpoint / sourcepoint (SP): One of a number of locations or stations at the

surface of the Earth at which a seismic source is activated.

Side-scan sonar: A system for acoustic surveying most commonly deployed in

marine environments and towed by a ship. The side-scan sonar generates a pulse
on the order of 30 to 120 kHz that is reflected from the seafloor. Side-scan sonar
records yield an image of the seafloor and shallow sediments.

Sideswipe: A type of event in 2D seismic data in which a feature out of the plane
of a seismic section is apparent, such as an anticline, fault or other geologic
structure. A properly migrated 3D survey will not contain sideswipes.

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Signal: The portion of the seismic wave that contains desirable information. Noise
is the undesirable information that typically accompanies the signal and can, to
some extent, be filtered out of the data.

Signal-to-noise ratio: The ratio of desirable to undesirable (or total) energy. The
signal-to-noise ratio can be expressed mathematically as S/N or S/(S+N), although
S/N is more commonly used. The signal-to-noise ratio is difficult to quantify
accurately because it is difficult to completely separate signal from noise. It also
depends on how noise is defined.

Signature / character: A distinguishing feature of a waveform in a seismic event,

such as shape, polarity, amplitude, frequency or phase. The signature of the
seismic source waveform is of particular interest to geophysicists.

Signature deconvolution: A step in seismic processing by which the signature of

the seismic source in the seismic trace is changed to a known, shorter waveform
by using knowledge of the source waveform. If the source waveform is known for
each shot, then the process also minimizes variations between seismic records
that result from changes in the source output.

Simple multiple: An event in which one deeper and one near-surface reflector,
such as the base of weathering or the ocean floor, are involved. The seismic
energy bounces twice from the deep reflector and only once from the shallow
reflector, causing the multiple to appear at roughly twice the traveltime of the
primary reflection.

Sinc x: A function commonly used in seismic processing. Sinc x is the Fourier

transform of a boxcar function, which is a function with a rectangular-shaped

Single-azimuth towed-stream acquisition: Conventional marine seismic data

acquisition method using a single vessel to tow one or more seismic source arrays
and streamers in a straight line as the vessel records seismic data. With this
method, the angle between the source and receivers is narrow.

Skid: A conveyance, such as a sled with runners or pontoons, used to transport

geophysical gear to a location. Skids are commonly deployed in acquisition of
seismic data in marshes or other areas of soft, soggy terrain.

Skid depth: The effective depth of penetration of an electromagnetic wave in a

conductive medium. The skin depth is the distance in which the wave decays to
1/e (about 37%) of its value; it can be expressed as:
s 2 / 1 / 2
Where s = skin depth in m, = conductivity in mhos/m, = permeability in
henries/m, = angular frequency in radians/s.

Slant stack: A process used in seismic processing to stack, or sum, traces by

shifting traces in time in proportion to their offset. This technique is useful in
areas of dipping reflectors.

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Smile: A concave-upward, semicircular event in seismic data that has the
appearance of a smile and can be caused by poor data migration or migration of

Snells law: The mathematical description of refraction, or the physical change in

the direction of a wavefront as it travels from one medium to another with a
change in velocity and partial conversion and reflection of a P-wave to an S-
wave at the interface of the two media. Snell's law, one of two laws describing
refraction, was formulated in the context of light waves, but is applicable
toseismic waves. It is named for Willebrord Snel (1580 to 1626), a Dutch
mathematician. Snell's law can be written as:

- Pertaining to sound waves in the frequency range of 1 to 25 kilohertz.
- Some authors use the term to describe P-waves in fluids, or as a synonym for
seismic or elastic

Sonic log: A type of acoustic log that displays traveltime of P-waves versus depth.
Sonic logs are typically recorded by pulling a tool on a wireline up the wellbore.
The tool emits a sound wave that travels from the source to the formation and
back to a receiver.

Sound: probe

Source: A device that provides energy for acquisition of seismic data, such as an
air gun, explosive charge or vibrator.

Source pattern: array

Source point: shotpoint

Space-frequency domain: A display, also known as the f-k domain, of seismic

data by wavenumber versus frequency rather than the intuitive display of location
versus time for convenience during seismic processing. Working in the space-
frequency domain provides the seismic processor with an alternative measure of
the content of seismic data in which operations such as filtering of certain
unwanted events can be accomplished more effectively.

- The distance between sources and receivers, particularly in logging tools.
- The distance between successive shotpoints.

Spectral: Pertaining to a spectrum. The spectral content of a wavetrain or wavelet

usually refers to its amplitude and phase as a function of frequency.

Spectrum: Generally, a display of entities or properties according to magnitude. In

geophysics, spectrum refers to a display of characteristics of a wavetrain or trace

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as a function of frequency, wavenumber, or arrival time. A common display of
spectrum is amplitude as a function of frequency.

Spherical divergence:
- The apparent loss of energy from a wave as it spreads during travel. Spherical
divergence decreases energy with the square of the distance.
- The apparent loss of intensity of a gravitational or magnetic field with distance.
Spherical divergence decreases energy with the square of the distance.

Spherical harmonic: The solution to the Laplace equation expressed as spherical

coordinates. The normal modes of the Earth, or the reverberations that follow
earthquakes, have the form of spherical harmonics. Love waves and Rayleigh
waves can also be expressed as spherical harmonics.

Spherical wave: A wave generated from a point source, such as that generated
by an underground explosion. Typical seismic sources such as vibrators and air-
gun arrays emit elastic waves that are assumed to be spherical waves.

Spontaneous potential (SP): Naturally occurring (static) electrical potential in

the Earth. Spontaneous potentials are usually caused by charge separation in clay
or other minerals, by the presence of a semipermeable interface impeding the
diffusion of ions through the pore space of rocks, or by natural flow of a
conducting fluid (salty water) through the rocks. Variations in SP can be measured
in the field and in wellbores to determine variations of ionic concentration in pore
fluids of rocks.

Spread: The geometrical pattern of groups of geophones relative to the seismic

source. The output from a single shot is recorded simultaneously by the spread
during seismic acquisition. Common spread geometries include in-line offset, L-
spread, split-spread and T-spread.

A processed seismic record that contains traces that have been added together
from different records to reduce noise and improve overall data quality. The
number of traces that have been added together during stacking is called the
To sum traces to improve the signal-to-noise ratio, reduce noise and improve
seismic data quality. Traces from different shot records with a common reflection
point, such as common midpoint (CMP) data, are stacked to form a single trace
during seismic processing. Stacking reduces the amount of data by a factor called
the fold.

Stacking velocity: The distance-time relationship determined from analysis of

normal moveout (NMO) measurements from common depth point gathers of
seismic data. The stacking velocity is used to correct the arrival times of events in
the traces for their varying offsets prior to summing, or stacking, the traces to
improve the signal-to-noise ratio of the data.

Static correction / near-surface correction: Often called statics, a bulk shift of

a seismic trace in time during seismic processing. A common static correction is

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the weathering correction, which compensates for a layer of low seismic velocity
material near the surface of the Earth. Other corrections compensate for
differences in topography and differences in the elevations of sources and

Stoneley wave: A type of large-amplitude interface, or surface, wave generated

by a sonic tool in a borehole. Stoneley waves can propagate along a solid-fluid
interface, such as along the walls of a fluid-filled borehole and are the main low-
frequency component of signal generated by sonic sources in boreholes. Analysis
of Stoneley waves can allow estimation of the locations of fractures and
permeability of the formation. Stoneley waves are a major source of noise in
vertical seismic profiles.

Streamer: A surface marine cable, usually a buoyant assembly of electrical wires

that connects hydrophones and relays seismic data to the recording seismic
vessel. Multistreamer vessels tow more than one streamer cable to increase the
amount of data acquired in one pass.

Streamer feathering: In marine seismic acquisition, the lateral deviation of a

streamer away from the towing direction because of a water current.

Suppression: In seismic acquisition and processing, the attenuation of amplitudes

to reduce the effects of noise or to prevent overload from the high energy of first

Surface wave: A wave that propagates at the interface between two media as
opposed to through a medium. A surface wave can travel at the interface
between the Earth and air, or the Earth and water. Love waves and Rayleigh
waves are surface waves.

- A data set measured and recorded with reference to a particular area of the
Earth's surface, such as a seismic survey. (seismic survey)
- To measure and record data according to location on the Earth's surface. In
geophysics, the term is used in the context of acquiring seismic, electrical, gravity
or magnetic data to evaluate the subsurface.

SV-wave: A shear wave that is polarized so that its particle motion and direction of
propagation occur in a vertical plane.

Synthetic seismogram: The result of one of many forms of forward modeling to

predict the seismic response of the Earth. A more narrow definition used by
seismic interpreters is that a synthetic seismogram, commonly called a synthetic,
is a direct one-dimensional model of acoustic energy traveling through the layers
of the Earth. The synthetic seismogram is generated by convolving the reflectivity
derived from digitized acoustic and density logs with the wavelet derived from
seismic data. By comparing marker beds or other correlation points picked on well
logs with major reflections on the seismic section, interpretations of the data can
be improved. The quality of the match between a synthetic seismogram depends
on well log quality, seismic data processing quality, and the ability to extract a

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representative wavelet from seismic data, among other factors. The acoustic log
is generally calibrated with check-shot or vertical seismic profile (VSP) first-arrival
information before combining with the density log to produce acoustic impedance.

Tail buoy: A floating device used in marine seismic acquisition to identify the end
of a streamer. Tail buoys allow the seismic acquisition crew to monitor the location
and direction of streamers. They are commonly brightly colored, reflect radar
signals, and are fitted with Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers.

Tail mute: A cutoff in time, offset or both that has the effect of eliminating some
types of noise from seismic data. A tail mute can be used to exclude slow surface
waves such as ground roll.

Tangential wave: S-wave

TAR: true-amplitude recovery

TDEM (time-domain electromagnetic method): see transient electromagnetic


TE: transverse electric mode

Telluric current: A low-frequency electrical current that occurs naturally over

large areas at or near the surface of the Earth. Telluric currents are induced by
changes in Earth's magnetic field which are usually caused by interactions
between the solar wind and the ionosphere (part of the upper atmosphere).

Telluric-current method: An electromagnetic method in which naturally

occurring, low-frequency electric currents (telluric currents), are measured at a
base station and compared with values measured at other stations. The
normalized measurements of telluric current provide information about the
direction of current flow and the conductance (conductivity times thickness) of
sediments in the surveyed area. Extremely low-frequency telluric currents (with
periods of days or months) provide information about conductivity in the deep
interior of the Earth.

TEM: transient electromagnetic method

Three-component seismic data (3C seismic data): A type of multicomponent

seismic data acquired in a land, marine, or borehole environment by using three
orthogonally oriented geophones or accelerometers. 3C is particularly appropriate
when the addition of a hydrophone (the basis for 4C seismic data) adds no value
to the measurement, as for example, on land. This technique allows determination
of both the type of wave and its direction of propagation.

Three-dimensional seismic data (3D seismic data): A set of numerous closely-

spaced seismic lines that provide a high spatially sampled measure of subsurface
reflectivity. Typical receiver line spacing can range from 300 m [1000 ft] to over
600 m [2000 ft], and typical distances between shotpoints and receiver groups is
25 m [82 ft] (offshore and internationally) and 110 ft or 220 ft [34 to 67 m]

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(onshore USA, using values that are even factors of the 5280 feet in a mile). Bin
sizes are commonly 25 m, 110 ft or 220 ft. The resultant data set can be "cut" in
any direction but still display a well sampled seismic section. The original seismic
lines are called in-lines. Lines displayed perpendicular to in-lines are called
crosslines. In a properly migrated 3D seismic data set, events are placed in their
proper vertical and horizontal positions, providing more accurate subsurface maps
than can be constructed on the basis of more widely spaced 2D seismic lines,
between which significant interpolation might be necessary. In particular, 3D
seismic data provide detailed information about fault distribution and subsurface
structures. Computer-based interpretation and display of 3D seismic data allow for
more thorough analysis than 2D seismic data.

Three-dimensional survey (3D survey): The acquisition of seismic data as

closely spaced receiver and shot lines such that there typically are no significant
gaps in the subsurface coverage. A 2D survey commonly contains numerous
widely spaced lines acquired orthogonally to the strike of geological structures
and a minimum of lines acquired parallel to geological structures to allow line-to-
line correlation of the seismic data and interpretation and mapping of structures.

- A comparison, or the location of a comparison, of data. Properly processed and
interpreted seismic lines can show good ties, or correlations, at intersection
- To correlate data in order to formulate or verify an interpretation or to
demonstrate the relationship between data sets. Long, regional-scale 2D seismic
lines are commonly tied to 3D surveys that cover a limited area, and 3D surveys
of different vintages are tied to each other. Well logs are tied into seismic data
routinely to determine the relationship between lithologic boundaries in the logs
and seismic reflections. Properly tying all available data, including seismic data,
well logs, check-shot surveys, synthetic seismograms and vertical seismic profiles,
can reduce or, if there are sufficient data, eliminate ambiguity in interpretations.

Time domain: The use of a function of time rather than frequency to express an
independent variable or measurement. In contrast, in the frequency domain,
variables are expressed as a function of frequency instead of time.

Time migration: A migration technique for processing seismic data in areas where
lateral velocity changes are not too severe, but structures are complex. Time
migration has the effect of moving dipping events on a surface seismic line from
apparent locations to their true locations in time. The resulting image is shown in
terms of traveltime rather than depth, and must then be converted to depth with
an accurate velocity model to be compared to well logs.

Time slice: A horizontal display or map view of 3D seismic data having a certain
arrival time, as opposed to a horizon slice that shows a particular reflection. A
time slice is a quick, convenient way to evaluate changes in amplitude of seismic

Time domain: time domain electromagnetic method

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Time-domain electromagnetic method : TDEM

Time-lapse seismic data: Seismic data from the surface or a borehole acquired
at different times over the same area to assess changes in the subsurface with
time, such as fluid movement or effects of secondary recovery. The data are
examined for changes in attributes related to expressions of fluid content. Time-
lapse seismic data can repeat 2D, 3D (which is known as 4D seismic data),
crosswell and VSP data.

TM: transverse magnetic mode

Tomography: A technique to measure and display the three-dimensional

distribution of velocity or reflectivity of a volume of the Earth by using numerous
sources and receivers. There are several types of tomography used by
geophysicists, including transmission tomography (which uses measurements
between boreholes, surface-to-surface, or between a borehole and the surface),
reflection or seismic tomography (based on standard reflection seismology), and
diffraction tomography (using Fermat's principle for computations instead of
Snell's law). Variations in velocity can be attributed to changes in density and
elastic properties of rocks, which in turn are affected by the increasing
temperature with depth in the Earth. Tomographic techniques have been used to
construct maps of the Earth's interior, deep in the mantle, as well as for mapping
the shallow subsurface by borehole tomography.

Trace: The seismic data recorded for one channel. A trace is a recording of the
Earth's response to seismic energy passing from the source, through subsurface
layers, and back to the receiver.

Transient electromagnetic method: A variation of the electromagnetic method

in which electric and magnetic fields are induced by transient pulses of electric
current in coils or antennas instead of by continuous (sinusoidal) current. In the
last two decades, TEM surveys have become the most popular surface EM
technique used in exploration for minerals and groundwater and for
environmental mapping.

Transit time / interval transit time: The duration of time for a P-wave to travel
one foot, typically displayed on an acoustic log. The unit of microseconds per foot
(or meter) (/ft) is called the slowness, which is the inverse of velocity.

Transition zone: An area in which water is too shallow for acquisition of marine
seismic data with towed streamers, such as near the shoreline, marshes and
lagoons. In some cases, source explosives can be rammed into the
unconsolidated sediments of transition zone environments rather than drilling
more costly shot holes. Likewise, hydrophones can be placed by ramming to
couple the receiver to the Earth better and to save time and money during survey

Transmission tomography: A technique used in crosswell seismic and

electromagnetic tomography for recording the direct signal from the source or

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transmitter in one well to the receiver array in another well. This technique is
used for mapping the distribution of acoustic velocity and attenuation or
electromagnetic resistivity between wells.

Transverse electric mode: A mode of the electromagnetic field that involves only
one component of the electric field and the two components of the magnetic field
perpendicular to it; e.g., the x-component of the electric field and y- and z-
components of the magnetic field. The TE mode is useful in describing 2D models
in which the electric field is perpendicular to the 2D plane of the model. For this
case, Maxwell's equations can be reduced to a single scalar equation for the
electric field component, which simplifies calculations tremendously. There is an
analogous mode for the magnetic field called the TM mode. A general EM field in
a region without sources can be expressed as a sum of TE and TM modes.

Transverse magnetic mode (TM): A mode of the electromagnetic field that

involves only one component of the magnetic field and the two components of the
electric field perpendicular to it; e.g., the x-component of the magnetic field and
y- and z-components of the electric field. The TM mode is useful in describing 2D
models in which the magnetic field is perpendicular to the 2D plane of the model.
For this case, Maxwell's equations can be reduced to a single scalar equation for
the magnetic field component, which simplifies calculations tremendously.

Traveltime / acoustic traveltime: The duration of the passage of a signal from

the source through the Earth and back to the receiver. A time seismic section
typically shows the two-way traveltime of the wave.

Trough: The minimum (negative) deflection of the seismic wavelet. Seismic

interpreters commonly pick or track seismic data on paper sections along the
trough of a wavelet rather than the solid-colored peak. With the advent of
workstations, this is no longer necessary because of automatic picking techniques
and the ability to reverse the polarity of the data in real time.

True-amplitude recovery: Steps in seismic processing to compensate for

attenuation, spherical divergence and other effects by adjusting the amplitude of
the data. The goal of TAR is to get the data to a state where the reflector
amplitudes relate directly to the change in rock properties giving rise to them.

Tube wave: A Stoneley wave that occurs at the low frequencies of seismic data.

Tuning effect: A phenomenon of constructive or destructive interference of waves

from closely spaced events or reflections. At a spacing of less than one-quarter of
the wavelength, reflections undergo constructive interference and produce a
single event of high amplitude. At spacing greater than that, the event begins to
be resolvable as two separate events. The tuning thickness is the bed thickness at
which two events become indistinguishable in time, and knowing this thickness is
important to seismic interpreters who wish to study thin reservoirs. The tuning
thickness can be expressed by the following formula:
Z = VI/2.8 fmax,
where Z = tuning thickness of a bed, equal to 1/4 of the wavelength
VI = interval velocity of the target

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fmax = maximum frequency in the seismic section.
The equation assumes that the interfering wavelets are identical in frequency
content and are zero-phase and is useful when planning a survey to determine
the maximum frequency needed to resolve a given thickness. Spatial and
temporal sampling requirements can then be established for the survey.

Two-dimensional seismic data (2D seismic data):

- A vertical section of seismic data consisting of numerous adjacent traces acquired
- A group of 2D seismic lines acquired individually, as opposed to the multiple
closely spaced lines acquired together that constitute 3D seismic data.

Two-dimensional survey (2D survey): Seismic data or a group of seismic lines

acquired individually such that there typically are significant gaps (commonly 1
km or more) between adjacent lines. A 2D survey typically contains numerous
lines acquired orthogonally to the strike of geological structures (such as faults
and folds) with a minimum of lines acquired parallel to geological structures to
allow line-to-line tying of the seismic data and interpretation and mapping of

Two-way traveltime (TWT / 2-way traveltime): The elapsed time for a seismic
wave to travel from its source to a given reflector and return to a receiver at the
Earth's surface. Minimum two-way traveltime is that of a normal-incidence wave
with zero offset.

Undershooting: A technique for acquisition of seismic data beneath areas that

are difficult to access at the surface of the Earth, such as near rivers, drilling rigs,
production platforms, environmentally sensitive areas or around seismically
problematic features such as salt domes, which introduce uncertainty because of
their high velocity. The sources and receivers are located on opposite sides of the

Upward continuation: The use of measurements of a field at one elevation, level

or surface to determine the values of the field at a higher level. The technique is
most often used on potential fields, such as gravity or magnetic fields, to reduce
scattered measurements to a common level for a simpler interpretation.
Variogram: A two-point statistical function that describes the increasing difference
or decreasing correlation, or continuity, between sample values as separation
between them increases.

Velocity: The rate at which a wave travels through a medium (a scalar) or the rate
at which a body is displaced in a given direction (a vector), commonly symbolized
by v. Unlike the physicist's definition of velocity as a vector, its usage in
geophysics is as a property of a medium-distance divided by traveltime. Velocity
can be determined from laboratory measurements, acoustic logs, vertical seismic
profiles or from velocity analysis of seismic data. Velocity can vary vertically,
laterally and azimuthally in anisotropic media such as rocks, and tends to increase
with depth in the Earth because compaction reduces porosity. Velocity also varies
as a function of how it is derived from the data. For example, the stacking velocity
derived from normal moveout measurements of common depth point gathers

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differs from the average velocity measured vertically from a check-shot or vertical
seismic profile (VSP). Velocity would be the same only in a constant velocity
(homogeneous) medium.

Velocity analysis: The process of calculating seismic velocity, typically by using

common midpoint data, in order to better process seismic data. Successful
stacking, time migration and depth migration all require proper velocity inputs.
Velocity or stacking velocity can be calculated from normal moveout, or the
change in arrival time produced by source-receiver offset.

Velocity anomaly: A feature in seismic data that results from changes in velocity,
both laterally and vertically. Pull-up and push-down are examples of velocity

Velocity correction: A change made in seismic data to present reflectors

realistically. Velocity corrections typically require that assumptions be made about
the seismic velocities of the rocks or sediments through which seismic waves

Velocity layering: Those thicknesses of rock or sediment that have a common

velocity, as opposed to the sedimentary layering or bedding of the rock or

Velocity survey / check-shot survey: Measurements used to determine average

velocity versus depth, such as from an acoustic log or check-shot survey.
Acquiring a velocity survey is also known as "shooting a well."

Vertical seismic profile (VSP): A class of borehole seismic measurements used

for correlation with surface seismic data, for obtaining images of higher resolution
than surface seismic images and for looking ahead of the drill bit; also called a
VSP. Purely defined, VSP refers to measurements made in a vertical wellbore using
geophones inside the wellbore and a source at the surface near the well. In the
more general context, VSPs vary in the well configuration, the number and
location of sources and geophones, and how they are deployed. Most VSPs use a
surface seismic source, which is commonly a vibrator on land and an air gun in
offshore or marine environments. VSPs include the zero-offset VSP, offset VSP,
walkaway VSP, walk-above VSP, salt-proximity VSP, shear-wave VSP, and drill-
noise or seismic-while-drilling VSP. A VSP is a much more detailed survey than a
check-shot survey because the geophones are more closely spaced, typically on
the order of 25 m [82 ft], whereas a check-shot survey might include
measurements of intervals hundreds of meters apart. Also, a VSP uses the
reflected energy contained in the recorded trace at each receiver position as well
as the first direct path from source to receiver. The check-shot survey uses only
the direct path traveltime. In addition to tying well data to seismic data, the
vertical seismic profile also enables converting seismic data to zero-phase data
and distinguishing primary reflections from multiples.

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Vibrator: An adjustable mechanical source that delivers vibratory seismic energy
to the Earth for acquisition of seismic data. Mounted on large trucks, vibrators are
commonly used for acquisition of onshore seismic data.

Vibratory seismic data: Seismic data whose energy source is a truck-mounted

device called a vibrator that uses a vibrating plate to generate waves of seismic
energy; also known as Vibroseis data (Vibroseis is a mark of Conoco). The
frequency and duration of the energy can be controlled and varied according to
the terrain and type of seismic data desired. The vibrator typically emits a linear
"sweep" of at least seven seconds, beginning with high frequencies and
decreasing with time ("downsweeping") or going from low to high frequency
("upsweeping"). The frequency can also be changed in a nonlinear manner, such
that certain frequencies are emitted longer than others. The resulting source
wavelet is not impulsive. Vibrators are employed in land acquisition in areas
where explosive sources cannot be used, and more than one vibrator can be used
simultaneously to improve data quality.

Walk-above vertical seismic profile / walk-above VSP: A type of vertical

seismic profile to accommodate the geometry of a deviated well; sometimes
called a vertical incidence VSP. Each receiver is in a different lateral position with
the source directly above the receiver for all cases. Such data provide a high-
resolution seismic image of the subsurface below the trajectory of the well.

Walkaway vertical seismic profile / walkaway VSP: A type of vertical seismic

profile in which the source is moved to progressively farther offset at the surface
and receivers are held in a fixed location, effectively providing a mini 2D seismic
line that can be of higher resolution than surface seismic data and provides more
continuous coverage than an offset VSP. 3D walkaways, using a surface grid of
source positions, provide 3D images in areas where the surface seismic data do
not provide an adequate image due to near-surface effects or surface
obstructions. Walkaway VSPs in which the receivers are placed just above the
reservoir are gaining acceptance as a tool to quantify seismic attributes and
calibrate surface seismic data.

Walsh-Hadamard transform: In digital signal processing, a nonsinusoidal

transform by addition and subtraction. The Walsh-Hadamard transform is similar
to Fourier series analysis, but uses square waves instead of sinusoidal waves. It is
used predominantly in communication theory and, to a lesser extent, in filtering
logs with a blocky character.

Water gun: A source of energy for acquisition of marine seismic data that shoots
water from a chamber in the tool into a larger body of water, creating cavitation.
The cavity is a vacuum and implodes without creating secondary bubbles. This
provides a short time signature and higher resolution than an air-gun source.

Water-bottom roll: The marine equivalent of ground roll. Water-bottom roll

consists of a pseudo-Rayleigh wave traveling along the interface of the water and
the seafloor. As the use of seabed receiver systems increases, noise from water-
bottom roll has become more of a concern

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Wave: A periodic vibrational disturbance in which energy is propagated through or
on the surface of a medium without translation of the material. Waves can be
differentiated by their frequency, amplitude, wavelength and speed of
Wavelength is define as: =v/f. where = wavelength, v = speed of propagation,
and f = frequency.

Wave equation: A mathematical expression to represent wave displacement and

wave velocity (V) as functions of space (x,y,z) and time (t).
2 2 2 1 2
2 2 2 2 2
x y z V t

Where = wave displacement, V = wave velocity and t = time.

Waveform: The shape of a wave, typically shown as a graph of amplitude (or

other quantity of interest) versus time.

Wavefront: The edge of an advancing wave, which includes adjacent points that
have the same phase.

Wavelength: The distance between analogous points in a wave train, measured

perpendicular to the wavefront. In seismic data, the wavelength is the seismic
velocity divided by frequency. It can be expressed mathematically as: Wavelength
is define as: =v/f. where = wavelength, v = speed of propagation, and f =

Wavelet: A one-dimensional pulse, usually the basic response from a single

reflector. Its key attributes are its amplitude, frequency and phase. The wavelet
originates as a packet of energy from the source point, having a specific origin in
time, and is returned to the receivers as a series of events distributed in time and
energy. The distribution is a function of velocity and density changes in the
subsurface and the relative position of the source and receiver. The energy that
returns cannot exceed what was input, so the energy in any received wavelet
decays with time as more partitioning takes place at interfaces. Wavelets also
decay due to the loss of energy as heat during propagation. This is more
extensive at high frequency, so wavelets tend to contain less high-frequency
energy relative to low frequencies at longer traveltimes. Some wavelets are
known by their shape and spectral content, such as the Ricker wavelet.

Wavelet extraction: A step in seismic processing to determine the shape of the

wavelet, also known as the embedded wavelet, that would be produced by a wave
train impinging upon an interface with a positive reflection coefficient. Wavelets
may also be extracted by using a model for the reflections in a seismic trace, such
as a synthetic seismogram. A wavelet is generated by deconvolving the trace with
the set of reflection coefficients of the synthetic seismogram, a process also
known as deterministic wavelet extraction. Wavelets may be extracted without a
model for the reflections by generating a power spectrum of the data. By making
certain assumptions, such as that the power spectrum contains information about
the wavelet (and not the geology) and that the wavelet is of a certain phase
(minimum, zero), a wavelet may be generated. This is also called statistical

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wavelet extraction. A particular processing approach to establishing the
embedded wavelet is to compare the processed seismic response with the
response measured by a vertical seismic profile (VSP) or generated synthetically
through a synthetic seismogram in which the embedded wavelet is known. The
wavelet can also be extracted through the autocorrelation of the seismic trace, in
which case the phase of the wavelet has to be assumed.

Wavenumber: The reciprocal of wavelength, so the number of wave cycles per

unit of distance, abbreviated as k.

Weathering correction: A method of compensating for delays in seismic

reflection or refraction times induced by low-velocity layers such as the weathered
layer near the Earth's surface. It is a type of static correction.

Well shot: see check-shot survey

Wide-azimuth towed-streamer acquisition: A marine seismic data acquisition

method that uses one or more vessels to tow source arrays and streamers to
record seismic signals, along with one or more source-only vessels sailing parallel
to, but at some specified distance from, the recording vessel(s). The source-only
vessels provide offset sources that generate reflections from a wide range of
azimuths; these reflections are received by streamers towed by the recording

Wiggle trace: A common seismic display that shows trace amplitude versus time
as an oscillating line about a null point.

Window: aperture

Work station: An interactive computer suitable for seismic data processing,

interpretation and modeling that is particularly useful for studies of large
quantities of seismic data, particularly 3D seismic data.

Youngs modulus: An elastic constant named after British physicist Thomas Young
(1773 to 1829) that is the ratio of longitudinal stress to longitudinal strain and is
symbolized by E. It can be expressed mathematically as follows:
E = (F/A)/(L/L)
Where E = Youngs modulus, F = Force, A = Area, L = change in length, L =
original length.

Zero crossing: The null point of a seismic trace. At zero deflection, the phase of a
periodic signal is zero or pi.

Zero-offset data: Seismic data whose source and receiver share a common
location. Stacking seismic data acquired with separated sources and receivers
gives the data the appearance of zero-offset data.

Zero-offset vertical seismic profile (VSP): A conventional vertical seismic

profile in which the energy source is positioned directly above the receivers,
typically very close to the wellbore.

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Zero-phase: Pertaining to seismic data whose wavelet is symmetrical about zero
time. Deconvolution during seismic processing can convert data of mixed phase
to zero-phase data, but is not always successful. Zero-phase data tend to provide
sharper definition and less distortion between stratigraphic features in the
subsurface, such as sand and shale layers.

Zeoppritz equations: A set of equations that describes the partitioning of energy

in a wavefield relative to its angle of incidence at a boundary across which the
properties of the rock and fluid content changes.

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