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acquisition.

Ran Bachrach* and Amos Nur, Stanford University

depends on the separation of groundroll from reflected

Typical high-resolution shallow seismic methods target energy in the frequency domain. In this paper we show that

depths of < 500m. However, obtaining high-resolution in unconsolidated sediments, where velocities are pressure

seismic reflection images of depths shallower than 5-10m is dependent, this separation can be achieved.

often assumed not to be possible. There is still a great need

to better understand the seismic response of the near

surface.

seismic acquisition in unconsolidated sediments. We show “G rou ndroll”

W indo w

that the velocity profile in the upper few meters of

unconsolidated sediments is pressure dependent, and the

very near surface P- and S-wave velocities are very low. “O p tim u m ”

We show that, given this velocity profile, groundroll will W in d ow

presence of very mild surface roughness. This attenuation

of the high frequencies of the groundroll causes the

separation of the reflection energy from the groundroll Fig. 1. The optimum window and groundroll window in shallow

energy in the frequency domain. This separation enables us shot gather.

to image seismic reflections very near the surface. We

present field examples from three different locations where Velocity Profile in Shallow Unconsolidated Sediments

we were able to obtain very shallow reflections (1-3m) in

unconsolidated sediments. Velocities in unconsolidated sediments are governed by the

overburden pressure. Recently, Bachrach et al. showed

Introduction that the pressure dependent P- and S- wave velocity-versus-

pressure profiles in sands can be modeled based on contact

Ultra-shallow seismic acquisition is an underdeveloped mechanics (Bachrach et al., 1998a, and 1998b). The

field (Steeples et al. 1997). Typically, high-resolution functional dependence of the velocity-depth profile in

shallow seismic reflection survey target reflections in the general is related to the grain elastic moduli, density, shape,

"Optimum" window range (Hunter at al., 1984), defined as the porosity etc.. In unconsolidated sediments, the top

the zone between the first arrivals and the groundroll (Fig. layer of grains is a suspension of grains in air, and the

1). In this zone, the reflections are not contaminated by the elastic stiffness increase with depth is due to the

groundroll and can be easily imaged. However, using the overburden pressure effect on contact stiffness. This

optimum window technique does not allow for very short dependence is given in equations (1) and (2). (A more

offsets, and therefore typically shallow reflections arriving detailed discussion on these results is given in Bachrach et

at times earlier than 35-50ms are difficult to image. Hence, al, 1998b).

using only the optimum window limits the reflection profile 1 1

shallow imaging, one must obtain the reflections inside the 1 1 K 0K air (1)

groundroll. = + φ /(K 0 + ), G U = GC

KU KC K 0 − K air

The attenuation of groundroll is typically done using

geophone arrays or frequency filtering. Geophone arrays where K U and G U are bulk and shear moduli of the

are not very useful in ultra-shallow reflection surveys sediment, Z is depth, φ is porosity, K 0 is the grain

because the dimensions of such arrays are typically larger modulus, K air is the air bulk modulus, and α G and α K

than the required station spacing. Therefore, frequency

filtering is the only effective tool for attenuating are constants which in general are functions of all the other

sediment parameters, and can be determined

Ultra Shallow Seismic Reflection

experimentally. The effective bulk and shear moduli in then is: why is there such a separation in the frequency

vacuum are given by K C and G C respectively. domain between groundroll and the shallow reflections?

The P- and S-wave velocities are given by: What is the physical reason that enables us to suppress the

groundroll and yet retain the reflections?

To answer this question, we will go back to the basic

K U + 43 G U GU attenuation mechanism of groundroll. We will limit the

Vp = , Vs = (2)

ρ ρ discussion to Rayleigh waves.

The P- and S-wave velocities in unconsolidated sand (Fig.

2) show that the velocity gradient is very steep in the very

near surface, and the P and S wave velocities at the surface

are very low. We will show below that this fact causes

separation of groundroll energy from the reflected energy.

0

3

Depth (m)

4

B

6 Vs Vp

8

0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350

Velocity (m/sec)

profile is typical of unconsolidated sediments with pressure

dependent velocity.

Sediments: Field Observations

Fig. 3: Power spectrum of a shot gather: A. Raw data (acquired

Figure 3a presents a shot gather collected on beach sand with 40Hz Geophones) B. Same gather after low cut filtering of

together with its power spectrum. Reflections in the gather 700Hz. The reflections are clearly visible inside the groundroll

at the very top part of the seismogram are masked by the zone due to a good separation between groundroll and reflection

surface waves, seen here as the low velocity waves energy in the frequency domain.

propagating in a steep angle along the seismogram. Figure

3b presents the same seismic section after frequency The Attenuation of Rayleigh Surface Waves due to

filtering. Note that there are clear reflections at 20 and Surface Roughness in Low-Velocity Unconsolidated

10ms, which were not visible before. In Fig. 4 we show Sediments

two more shot gathers from two different environments: A

river sandbar (A,B) and soil over bedrock (C,D). Note that The attenuation of surface waves depends on two main

the very shallow reflections can be seen in all shot gathers factors: (1). energy loss per unit cycle due to viscoelastic

inside the groundroll window after low-cut filtering. and inelastic effects, and (2). scattering attenuation. We

Again, there is a good separation in the frequency domain show next that, in unconsolidated sediments, the separation

between groundroll and reflections. Note also that the of reflected wave energy from the Rayleigh wave energy in

velocities in all three shot records are very low (slower than the frequency domain is expected and is caused mainly by

the airwave). Thus the attenuation of the groundroll in the scattering attenuation of the surface wave from the

very short offsets is common in all of these cases. surface roughness.

It is known from theory that the Rayleigh waves are non-

dispersive in a homogenous elastic medium. The question

Ultra Shallow Seismic Reflection

A The attenuation of Rayleigh surface waves due to surface

R a w D a ta roughness was studied in detail by Maradudin and Mills,

(1976). They used Green’s function approach together

with Born approximation to derive the energy loss per unit

distance for a Rayleigh wave scattering from surface

roughness. This energy loss per unit distance is expressed

as attenuation length β . Maradudin and Mills showed that

for a Gaussian surface roughness with correlation length a

and RMS amplitude δ the attenuation length can be

approximated by the expression:

β = α 0 f (aω / VR )

B

where

Air wave δ 2 a 2 ω5

α0 = ,

πVR5

π 2 VR 4 1 VR 2 − 2 VR 2 −1

Reflection f (aω / VR ) ≅ 2

( ) (1 − 2

) (1 − )

R VS 2 VS VP 2

VS 2 1 VS 2 1 aω

× (1 − 2 )( − ) + , << 1 (3)

VP 2 VP 2 32 VR

VS 2 VR aω

× (1 − 2 ) 2 1 / 2 , >> 1

VP π aω VR

C VP , VS and VR are the P-, S- and Rayleigh- wave

Raw Data velocities in the sediment, respectively, and ω is the

angular frequency. [The complete expression can be found

in Maradudin and Mills, (1976)].

For most unconsolidated sediments with Poisson ratio of

0.1-0.2, the Rayleigh wave velocity is VR ≅ 0.9VS Note

also that β is related to the amplitude of the surface

roughness squared ( δ 2 ), the correlation length squared

( a 2 ), and the Rayleigh wavelength to the power of (-5)

( λ−R5 ). The attenuation length β is plotted as a function

of different surface roughness amplitude and different shear

wave velocities in Fig. 5. Fig. 6 shows a 300Hz wavelet

D

transmitted in a medium which has 0.5m correlation length

and δ of 2cm. Note that in the low velocity material the

A ir w a v e

wavelet is almost totally attenuated. Note also that for

higher velocities, the attenuation coefficient is much

smaller.

Conclusions

R e f le c tio n be obtained if they can be separated from the groundroll

that masks these events in the very short offset part of the

seismogram. We have also shown that the velocity profile

in shallow, unconsolidated sand causes the surface wave

Fig. 4 Data from different geological environments A. Raw data

from a river sand bar. B. same as A but with 300Hz lowcut. C. velocity, and hence wavelength, to be very small. Thus the

Raw data from Soil over bedrock. D. same as C but with 500Hz. effect of even mild surface roughness (say 2cm height), is

low cut filter.

Ultra Shallow Seismic Reflection

significant for the attenuation of the surface wave even at and other attenuation mechanisms). Some of these surface

very short offsets. parameters are difficult to estimate. However, the near

surface velocity profile in unconsolidated materials is

constrained. Thus, the wavelength of the groundroll at

high frequencies is small and will always be more

Attenuation parameter beta attenuated than the reflected wave. The reflection energy

5 can be separated from the groundroll, as we observed in

our experiments.

Vs=150m/s

4 Vs=300m/s

Vs=450m/s Acknowledgements

3

This work was supported by the Stanford Rock Physics

β

2 discussions.

1 References

0 100 200 300 400 500

experiments in sand: 2). Velocities in shallow

Frequency (Hz) unconsolidated sands, Geophysics, In press.

Fig. 5 Attenuation parameter for 3 different media with VP and Bachrach, R., J. Dvorkin,. and A. Nur., 1998, Elasticity of

VS of: (A). 240m/s and 150m/s, (B). 480m/s and 300m/s, and shallow, unconsolidated sediments, In preparation.

(C). 720m/s and 450m/s.

Hunter, J. A., S. E. Pullan, R. A. Burns, R. Gagne, and R.

Good, 1984, Shallow reflection mapping of the overburden

bedrock interface with engineering seismograph- Some

simple techniques, Geophysics, 49, 1381-1385.

300Hz wavelets

1

Vs=450m/s Maradudin, A. A., and D. L. Mills, 1976, The attenuation

Vs=300m/s of Rayleigh surface waves by surface roughness, Annals of

Vs=150m/s

0.5 Physics, 1000, 262-309.

0

W. E. Doll, and J. W. Rector, 1997, A workshop

examination of shallow seismic reflection surveying, The

-0.5 Leading Edge, 16, 1641-1647.

-1

0 0.01 0.02 0.03 0.04 0.05

Time (sec)

different media in Fig 5. Note that the low velocity wavelet is

completely attenuated and has lost all of its high frequencies.

Thus, a good separation in the frequency domain is expected for

materials with such low velocities, e.g. unconsolidated sediments.

damped within less than 5m propagation length in a

material with VP and VS of 240m/s and 150m/s

respectively. We note that the actual attenuation of the

high-frequency surface wave is not a function of the

velocity alone, but has other parameters which affect it

(such as correlation length, surface roughness distribution

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