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# A seismic wave travelling through an isotropic homogeneous medium

## will propagate at a constant velocity. Therefore, the time tt required

for a seismic wave to travel from source to receiver in a homogeneous
earth layer with velocity v is simply given by the formula
t=d/v
where d is the distance travelled in the layer.
Basic seismic interpretation methods assume that the earth is
composed of a series of uniform layers and attempt to compute the
thicknesses, velocities, and sometimes dips of each layer. We will
discuss specific techniques for computing layer thicknesses and
velocities in the reflection and refraction survey sections. However,
we will introduce the concept of travel time computations and how
they relate to geometry here, using the example of a two layered
earth.
Fundamentals of Seismic Waves

## Q. What is a seismic wave?

Fundamentals of Seismic
Waves

particle motion.

## Different types of seismic waves are

characterized by their particle motion.
Three different types of
seismic waves
Compressional (p) wave
Shear (s) wave
Surface (Love and Raleigh)
wave

## Only p and s waves (collectively referred to

as body waves) are of interest
in seismic refraction.
Compressional (p) Wave
Identical to sound wave particle
motion is parallel to propagation
direction.
Shear (s) Wave
Particle motion is perpendicular
to propagation direction.
Velocity of Seismic Waves
Depends on density and elastic moduli

4
K
3
Vp Vs

## where K = bulk modulus, = shear

modulus, and = density.
Velocity of Seismic Waves
Bulk modulus = resistance to
compression = incompressibility
Shear modulus = resistance to
shear = rigidity

## The less compressible a material is, the

greater its p-wave velocity, e.g., sound
travels about four times faster in water
than in air. The more resistant a material
is to shear, the greater its shear wave
velocity.
Q. What is the rigidity of
water?
Q. What is the rigidity of
water?

## A. Water has no rigidity. Its shear

strength is zero.
Q. How well does water carry
shear waves?
Q. How well does water
carry shear waves?

A. It doesnt.
Fluids do not carry shear waves. This
knowledge, combined with earthquake
observations, is what lead to the
discovery that the earths outer core is
a liquid rather than a solid shear
p-wave velocity vs. s-wave
velocity
p-wave velocity must always be
greater than s-wave velocity.
Why?

4
K
3
Vp 2 K 4 Vp K 4

Vs 2
3 Vs 3

## K and are always positive numbers, so Vp

is always greater than Vs.

## Q. We know that in practice, velocity

tends to be directly proportional to
density. Yet density is in the
denominator. How is that possible?

## Q. We know that in practice, velocity

tends to be directly proportional to
density. Yet density is in the
denominator. How is that possible?

## A. Elastic moduli tend to increase with density also,

and at a faster rate.
Note: Elastic moduli are
important parameters for
understanding rock
properties and how they
will behave under various
conditions. They help
engineers assess
suitability for founding
dams, bridges, and other
critical structures such as
hospitals and schools.

## Measuring p- and s-wave

velocities can help
determine these
properties indirectly and
non-destructively.
Q. How do we use seismic
waves to understand the
subsurface?
Q. How do we use seismic
waves to understand the
subsurface?

## A. We must first understand wave

behavior in layered media.
Q. What happens when a
seismic wave encounters a
velocity discontinuity?
Q. What happens when a
seismic wave encounters a
velocity discontinuity?

## A. Some of the energy is

reflected, some is refracted.
Q. What happens when a
seismic wave encounters a
velocity discontinuity?
Consider a layer of thickness h and velocity v1 overlying a uniform
halfspace of velocity v2. A source is detonated at time t=0. We are
interested in the waves and arrival times of those waves at a receiver
which is located at a distance x from the source at position D in the
figure below. There are three principal waves that will travel through
the earth and arrive at position D. i) direct waves, ii) reflected waves,
and iii) critically refracted waves.
The travel time curves for these ray paths are shown below, where
the horizontal axis represents distance from the source along the flat
surface of the earth, xcrit is called the critical distance, and xcross the
crossover distance.
The critical distance is the closest surface point to the source at which
the refracted ray can be observed. The crossover distance is the
surface point at which the direct and refracted rays arrive at the same
time. At offsets from the source greater than the crossover distance
the refracted ray will be the first signal to arrive from the source.
Travel times of visible arrivals are related to the distance between source
and receiver (x), thickness of the layer (h) and the wave velocities in the
upper layer and basement (v1 and v2). Let us denote the arrival times at
point x for the direct, reflected and refracted waves as tdir, trefl trefr
respectively
Let us denote the arrival times at point x for the direct, reflected and
refracted waves as tdir, trefl trefr respectively. These times are given by the
following formulas
tdirtrefltrefr=xv1=x2+4h2v1=xv2+2hv22v21v1v2.tdir=xv
1trefl=x2+4h2v1trefr=xv2+2hv22v12v1v2.
Note that the formulas for the direct and refracted waves are linear in x but
that the reflected arrival time formula is not.
Before moving on, lets look at an example of how travel times show
up in the field. The horizontal axis of the following plot shows offset
from a seismic receiver. Each line plots the displacement vs time
curve of a geophone at a given offset. The plot clearly shows a set of
events moving linearly in time from one geophone to the next.
Five important concepts

Seismic Wavefront
Seismic Ray
Huygens Principle
Snells Law
Reciprocity
Q. What is a seismic
wavefront?
Q. What is a seismic
wavefront?

## A. Surface of constant phase, like

ripples on a pond, but in three
dimensions.
Q. What is a seismic
wavefront?
The speed at which a wavefront
travels is the seismic velocity of
the material, and depends on the
materials elastic properties. In a
homogeneous medium, a
wavefront is spherical. Velocity
inhomogeneities have a distorting
effect.
Seismic wavefront
Q. What is a ray?
Q. What is a ray?

## A. Also referred to as a wavefront

normal, a ray is an arrow drawn
perpendicular to the wavefront,
indicating the direction of travel at
that point on the wavefront. There
are an infinite number of rays on a
wavefront.
Ray
Huygens' Principle
Every point on a wavefront can be
thought of as a new point source for
waves generated in the direction the
wave is traveling.
Q. What causes
refraction?
Q. What causes
refraction?
A. Different portions of the
wavefront reach the velocity
boundary earlier than other
portions, speeding up or
slowing down on contact,
causing distortion of the
wavefront.
Understanding and
Quantifying How Waves
Refract is Essential
Snells Law
sin i V 1
(1)
sin r V 2
Snells Law
If V2>V1, then as i increases, r
increases faster
Snells Law
r approaches 90o as i increases
Snells Law
Critical Refraction

## At the Critical Angle of incidence ic, angle of

refraction r = 90o

sin ic V 1

sin 90 V 2

V1
sin ic (2)
V2

V1
ic sin 1 (3)
V2
Snells Law
Critical Refraction

## At Critical Angle of incidence ic, angle of

refraction r = 90o
Snells Law
Critical Refraction

## At Critical Angle of incidence ic, angle of

refraction r = 90o
Snells Law
Critical Refraction

## Seismic refraction makes use of

critically-refracted, first-arrival
energy only. The rest of the
waveform is ignored.
Principal of
Reciprocity
The travel-time of seismic energy between
two points is independent of the direction
traveled, i.e., interchanging the source and
the geophone will not affect the seismic
travel-time between the two.
overview
Refracted ray in a two layer earth
Two Horizontal Layers Over a Halfspace
Reflected rays - single layer
Travel Time Curves for Multiple Layers