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Seismic Methods and

A Guide for the Detection of Geologic
Structures, Earthquake Zones and Hazards,
Resource Exploration, and Geotechnical

Andreas Stark

BrownWalker Press
Boca Raton
Seismic Methods and Applications:
A Guide for the Detection of Geologic Structures, Earthquake Zones and
Hazards, Resource Exploration, and Geotechnical Engineering

Copyright © 2008 Andreas Stark.

All rights reserved. No Part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transcribed in any

form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or

recording, without the prior permission of the author.

BrownWalker Press
Boca Raton, Florida – USA

ISBN-10: 1-1599-441-X (hardcover)

ISBN-13: 978-1-59942-441-5 (hardcover)

ISBN-10: 1-1599-442-8 (ebook)

ISBN-13: 978-159942-442-2 (ebook)

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Stark, Andreas, 1946-

Seismic methods and applications: a guide for the detection of geologic
structures, earthquake zones and hazards, resource exploration, and
geotechnical engineering / Andreas Stark. -- 1st ed.
p. cm.
ISBN-13: 978-1-59942-441-5 (hardcover : alk. paper)
ISBN-10: 1-59942-441-X (hardcover : alk. paper)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59942-443-9 (pbk. : alk. paper)
ISBN-10: 1-59942-443-6 (pbk. : alk. paper)
1. Seismic prospecting--Methodology. I. Title.

TN269.8.S72 2008

This book is dedicated to my wife Regina

Introduction ix
Acknowledgements xi


Chapter 1 Waves and Sound 3

Chapter 2 Optics and Spectra 29
Chapter 3 Electromagnetic Waves 59
Chapter 4 Electrical Circuits 72


Chapter 5 Geophones and Arrays 97
Chapter 6 Seismic Instrumentation and Sources 147


Chapter 7 Seismic Field Design: 2D-3D-4D 187


Chapter 8 Rocks and Rock Physics 235
Chapter 9 Well Logs 246


Chapter 10 Seismic Waves and Velocities 273
Chapter 11 Seismic Refraction and the Near Surface 292
Chapter 12 Seismic Processing - Pre-Stack 304
Chapter 13 Seismic Processing - Post-Stack 353
Chapter 14 Acoustic Inversions and AVO 387
Chapter 15 Amplitudes, Resolution, Shear Waves and Anisotropy 427
LEEE Contents


Chapter 16 Seismic Interpretation 459
Chapter 17 Seismic Attributes 479


Chapter 18 Statistics, Mapping and Contouring Principles 493

References and Bibliography 551

Index 571

This book has been written for those who need a solid understanding of the seis-
mic method without the in-depth mathematical treatment that is normally required.
It is laid out in a format that allows one to naturally progress from the underlying
physical principles to the actual seismic method.
The mathematics needed for the topics is kept as simple as possible. High school
physics and mathematics are all that are required. The book starts out with the
elementary treatment of sound waves, light waves, optics, spectra and electromag-
netic wave principles. It will then progress into the principles of electrical circuits
and geophone design, geophone arrays and recording instrumentation design and
behavior, before treating the seismic shooting method itself. In this way we lay a
solid foundation for the understanding of the processes at work, which are waves
and their behavior, instruments and their behavior and the subsequent recording,
processing and interpretation principles of the geophysical waveforms.
The book essentially consist of seven divisions:
1. Basic physics
2. Geophones and instrumentation
3. Seismic field design
4. Rocks, rock physics and well logs
5. The seismic method
6. Seismic interpretation and geology
7. Probability, statistics and mapping
Many geoscientists believe that formalism aids in the understanding of the subject
matter, therefore texts treating this topic are usually too advanced, too mathematical
and too specialized, and they also make the assumption that many of the underlying
Physics concepts have already been mastered. On the other hand they can treat the
subject in such a simplified manner that there is absolutely no understanding or
even a foundation. I believe that when one starts out learning this subject this same
formalism prevents many students from understanding the concepts and therefore
drives them away from this science.
N Introduction

This book is aimed at those who are first or second year technical school or univer-
sity students who need to learn about the seismic method. This book can be used
for teaching a one or two semester course. As geoscientists we rely greatly on our
technicians and technologists. It is therefore important that they have a solid un-
derstanding of what we do and what we expect them to know.
Another group who might find this book very useful are seismic field personal
such as observers and party managers, geological and geophysical technicians,
geologists, engineers and financial people who need a more in depth understand-
ing of the subject without having to learn the advanced mathematical treatment.
I trust this book fills the gap that has existed for so long.

Andreas Stark
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
November, 2007

First of all I would like to thank my wife Regina who has been my inspiration
throughout our life together. Without her encouragement I would never have started
my thesis and have written this book. She has been my emotional support and my
best reviewer and critic through all my struggles in trying to create this book and
all of my course materials. I thank her for her unwavering support and for putting
up with me over the years.
I would also like to thank my thesis advisor at Rushmore University, Professor
Donald Mitchell for all his enthusiasm, direction and helpful advice and comments
for improvement. I trust that his suggestions for additions and changes have made
this a better book that will now have appeal to a much broader audience. I would
also like to thank my Rushmore University editor Ms. Laurel Barley for her efforts
and dedication in trying to understand the science and to help me write in proper
English without the use of technical jargon for as much as possible.
I have used the public domain provided seismic data and the SU software, also
known as SeismicUn*x, from the Center for Wave Phenomena at the Colorado
school of Mines, to create the processing examples. The mathematical pictures
and graphs were created in Mathematica© from Wolfram Research. All maps and
interpretation examples were created in WinPICS© from Divestco Inc. and in
Surfer© from Golden Software Inc. The stacked seismic data is from public domain
data that was provided with previous versions of WinPICS©, such as the Stratton
data set from the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology. The inversion pictures were
created with the Hampson Russell HR© software. All log data is public domain.
All photo’s of field examples and equipment are my own and were taken many
years ago.
The material and structure of the book evolved from over seventeen years of
teaching this material at the technical school level and through giving private
industry courses, so I like to thank all my students for their feedback and suggestions.
The large list of references given on the last few pages all had some part in the
final development of this book and should be used for more in-depth information.
The responsibility for any errors in this book resides solely with the author. The
reader is encouraged to report any errors of fact or of typographical nature to:


Waves and Sound
" Seismic Methods and Applications

To be able to understand the procedures and the principles behind the seismic
method, it is necessary to understand some of the basic principles of waves. The
first three chapters will provide the basics of waves, optics and electromagnetic
waves respectively. We will then combine the different aspects to give the student
a clear understanding of the basic seismic wave principles.
We will now start with a short introduction to the concept of vector and then
treat the laws that are fundamental to it all: the laws of motion.
Remember that we induce motion into the subsurface to create waves that will
travel through the various geologic layers. They will be altered by the responses
of these layers and these altered waves will be recorded at the surface.


Scalars are measurable quantities that have only magnitude and sign. Some
examples of scalar quantities are length, mass, volume, area, etc. All conventional
algebraic rules can be applied to perform mathematical operations on these
quantities. It is assumed that the student is already familiar with the handling of
scalar quantities.

Vectors are measurable quantities that have both
magnitude and direction with respect to a
reference plane. An example of a vector
quantity is shown in figure 1.1 in which the
magnitude of the gravitational force experi-
enced by the body is indicated by the length of
the segment joining the center of the body with
the arrowhead and the direction of the force is
indicated by the way the arrow points with
respect to an arbitrary set of coordinates x, x¢
and y, y¢. Fig. 1.1 Vector quantity

Addition of Vectors
Vectors in general do not obey ordinary algebraic rules, therefore a set of
mathematical operations suitable for vector operations must be developed. For
instance if we want to represent the sum of two vectors, we may write R = A +
B , which means that the resultant is equal to the vectorial sum of vector A and
vector B . The resultant will also be a vector quantity.
With reference to figure 1.2 the sum of two vectors may be stated as follows:
Starting at any arbitrary point and using any convenient scale draw a vector A1
equal and parallel to A and pointing in the same direction. At the head of vector
Waves and Sound #

A1 start the tail of vector B1 and draw it equal and parallel to B and in the same
direction. Then to find the sum of vectors A and B draw a vector from the origin
or tail of A1 to the end or head of B 1 . This vector R is the sum of A and B as
is shown. The order in which the sum is performed is irrelevant as long as the
same origin is used and the original direction and magnitude of the vectors have
not been changed.

Fig. 1.2 Vector addition

If the addition of more than two vectors is required then neither the triangle
nor the parallelogram method is suitable. We then have to apply the polygon

Definition of the Polygon Method is as Follows

Again starting from some arbitrary origin we redraw the vectors in sequence and
place them from head to tail. The sum of these vectors is a single vector drawn
from the origin to the head of the last vector in order to form a closed polygon, as
is shown in figure 1.3.

Fig. 1.3 Vector summing by polygon

$ Seismic Methods and Applications

Subtraction of Vectors
By using the same rules as those for addition, vectors can be subtracted by
employing the following relation:
R = A – B = A + -B c h
When the sign of a vector is changed from plus to minus (or vice versa) its
magnitude remains the same although its direction is reversed. Figure 1.4 below
shows the diagrammatic sum and subtraction of two given vectors.

Fig. 1.4 Vector subtraction

Resolution of Vectors
Since a single vector R is formed by adding together any number of vectors, any
vector can be split into any number of components. A useful method is to split a
vector into its rectangular components which will then permit the use of the
Cartesian coordinate system and the application of the rules of the rectangular
Referring to figure 1.5 below we notice that vector A forms a right-angled
triangle with the horizontal projection of A , the vector A x and the vertical
segment that joins the arrow heads of A and A x . Of course this vertical segment
A y is the projection of A on the y-axis. By using the properties of right angles
we can establish the following relationship:

Fig. 1.5 A vector’s rectangular components

Waves and Sound %
R| A = A * cos(q ) Þ cos(q ) =
|| x
|S A = A * sin(q ) Þ sin(q ) =
|| A y
= A * sin(q )
sin(q )
= tan(q )
x = A * cos(q ) cos(q )
Another very useful relationship can be obtained by using the Pythagorean
2 2 2 2
theorem A = A x + A y or, solving for A x and A y Ax = A - A y and
2 2
A y = A - A x . These properties of vectors are fundamental in the study of
physics and they should be thoroughly understood since they will be used
extensively in this and subsequent sections.

Multiplication and Division of a Vector by a Scalar

When a vector is multiplied by a positive scalar, the result is still a vector. The
new vector points in the same direction as the old one, but its magnitude is the
product of the scalar and the magnitude of the old vector. Therefore, any vector
quantity can be expressed mathematically as its absolute magnitude A , which is
always a positive scalar multiplied by an unit vector u pointing in the same
direction as A . Thus we have A = |A| ◊ u . | A| in this expression is also called
the modulus of vector u .
When a vector is multiplied by the value –1, the result is a vector of the same
absolute magnitude but pointing in the opposite direction. The division of a vector
by a scalar a is equivalent to multiplication by the scalar . The result of this
operation is always a vector quantity.

When we say that an object is at rest, we mean that it is at rest with respect to a
reference frame such as the earth or the walls of a room. When we speak of the
motion of a car or a train, we mean the relative motion of the object with respect
to the earth or some other frame of reference. The frame of reference usually
takes the form of a set of coordinates such as North–South–East–West.
The definition of motion is the distance the body travels along a straight line in
equal time intervals. The speed of a body is defined as the distance traveled
divided by the elapsed time: i.e. speed = distance/time
If symbols are substituted we get: v =
When numbers are substituted for symbols, they must be accompanied by their
proper units; therefore in the equation above we would have units of m/sec, ft/sec,
& Seismic Methods and Applications

etc. If both speed and direction of a body are specified we use the term velocity,
which is defined as follows: the velocity of a body which is in uniform motion in
a straight line is the displacement divided by the time during which this
displacement occurred or in symbols v =
The arrows above the symbols are used because both velocity and displacement
are vector quantities. If the displacement is not uniform in relation to time, the
equation must be modified to accommodate the variations; thus V avge
( s - s1 )
= 2 , where V avge is the average velocity over the interval  s2 - s1  and is
( t2 - t1 )
defined as the vector displacement divided by the time difference t2 - t1  .
The equation can be written in a more compact form by replacing  s2 - s1 
and t2 - t1  with the Greek letter D (delta).
This is usually referred to as the increment of
the variable which it precedes. Hence we can
write V avge = , where D s represents an
average displacement interval and not the
actual path s1 to s2, unless the path itself
follows a straight line. However, if s1 and s2
move toward a fixed point P on the curve, then
D s coincides more with the actual path along
the curve. The limit which the ratio can
reach, if it converges on P, is the value referred Fig. 1.6a Average and instan-
to as the instantaneous velocity. taneous velocity

Ds f t + Dt  - f t  ds
vinstantaneous = lim = lim = = f ¢ t  . This is equal to
Dt ® 0 D t ® 0 Dt dt
the value of the tangent at that point and can be found by letting the independent
variable Dt approach 0 as a limit. The limit can be defined as that constant value
which is approached by a sequence of values of the average velocity, also called
the derivative with respect to t. Figure 1.6a shows the Representation of Average
and Instantaneous Velocity


In 1687 Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727) published for the first time the three
fundamental laws of mechanics, which marked a new era in physics.
The three laws can be stated as follows:
1. A body remains at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line as long as no net
force acts on it (conditions of equilibrium–Galileo’s principle of inertia).
Waves and Sound '

2. If a net force acts on a body, the body will be accelerated. The magnitude of
the acceleration is proportional to the magnitude of the force and the
direction of the acceleration is in the direction of the force. (action principle
– fundamental law of dynamics)
3. When one body exerts a force on a second body, the latter exerts a force
equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body. Another way
of stating this law is: (to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction
– reaction principle)
These laws are fundamental to the sections that follow. They are important in
seismic exploration as we induce forces into the earth and therefore we create
reactive forces. It is the interaction of these forces that we will need to understand.

Newton’s First Law

Newton’s first law is often referred to as the law of inertia because of the
reluctance of a body to change its state of rest or motion. When a body is said to
be in equilibrium this does not mean that there are no forces acting on it; what is
meant is that the resultant of all the vector forces acting on the body are equal to
0, or expressed as vectors R = A + B + C + D + K = 0 where R is the
resultant of the vectors A , B , C , D etc. Sometimes it is more convenient to
express these vector quantities in a 3-dimensional coordinate system with
mutually perpendicular coordinates x, y and z, thus splitting R into its three
R x = Ax + B x + C x + Dx + L = 0
Ry = Ay + By + C y + Dy + L = 0
R z = A z + B z + C z + Dz + L = 0
If any of these three equations gives a resultant other than zero, then the body
will be accelerated in accordance with Newton’s second law.

Newton’s Second Law

A body is said to be accelerated when its velocity varies with respect to time. The
average acceleration is given by the change in velocity divided by the time in
which the change takes place - or in symbols: a avge = Instantaneous
acceleration is found by taking the limit of the ratio Dv/Dt in the same manner as
we defined instantaneous velocity: i.e. a instantaneous = , or
Dv f t + Dt  - f t  dv d 2s
a = lim = lim = &
= = 2
Dt ® 0 Dt Dt ® 0 Dt dt dt
We are now able to write Newton’s second law in the form of an equation:
F = k × a , where F is the magnitude and direction of the force and k is a
 Seismic Methods and Applications

constant scalar quantity, the value of

which depends on the system of units
used and the properties of the body.
Thus it follows that k = U * M, where
U is the system of units used and M
represents the properties of the body. M
is the symbol of mass, which is the
quantitative measurement of inertia in a
If the SI system is used then U = 1,
and M is expressed in kilograms (kg),
and acceleration is measured in meters
per second2 (m/sec2 ). Hence the equation
can be written in terms of the SI units: Fig. 1.6b Average and instantaneous
F = k ◊ a = kg m sec = N = kg m s , –2 acceleration
where N is the symbol for Newton.

Newton’s Third Law

The last law states that a single isolated force is a physical impossibility. Each
force is always met by another equal in magnitude and exerted in the opposite
direction. These forces are known as action and reaction. A typical example is
found in seismic work, either with Vibroseis® or the older gas exploding
Dinoseis®, where a force F is impressed into the ground. The reaction of the
ground to the force from the seismic source is countered by a force acting on the
truck which is sitting over it. This is often called the reaction mass. This is pointed
out in the following diagram.



Fig. 1.7 Vibrating force and reacting force indicated by the arrows


Vibrations of strings and tuning forks can be described by a simple experiment as
a function of time and amplitude. Let’s consider the vibration of a single point. In
Waves and Sound 

figure 1.8, we see a circle and a point H. If we let

this point H travel at a constant speed around the
circle, starting from point H0, we can determine the
position of H at any time by measuring the angle
HOH0, or j. The distance that the point H deviates
from point H0 is measured by the point P along the
axis DE and it is called the Amplitude.
If we now continue this process and continually
measure the angle and the position of the point P as
it moves up and down, then we can create a graph
that displays the vibration as a function of Fig. 1.8 Harmonic circular
amplitude and time as shown below in figure 1.9. motion
By the time we have completed one revolution
around the circle, or moved point P from O to D, to O, to E and back to O, we
have completed one wave form called l. The circle has been divided into twelve
equal arcs of equal time intervals, i.e. constant rotation to demonstrate this. Note
that this all happens in place and there is no lateral movement.

Fig. 1.9 Simple harmonic motion

These vibrations are called SIMPLE HARMONIC MOTIONS.

In the next picture, figure 1.10 we have marked 13 points, or twelve equal
intervals on a string. This indicates a traveling transverse harmonic vibration.

Fig. 1.10 Transverse harmonic motion

The first point started vibrating upwards from H0, the leading edge of the wave
train, and returns back to its original state after T seconds. The second point is a
 Seismic Methods and Applications

distance of l removed from point one. It will start vibrating when point one
has vibrated for T sec., as that is the time needed to go from the first point to
1 1
the second point, a distance of l. The second particle is then T - T sec in
12 12
vibration. The phase difference between particle one and particle two is therefore
æ 1 ö
çè T - T ÷ø 11
= . With the aid of the circle we see that the vector or radius A has
T 12
traveled the arc H0QH, or ´ 360 ° = 330°, and particle two is therefore at
position 2¢. This procedure is followed for all the remaining particles. It can be
seen that one vibration of particle one has created one peak and one trough, and is
currently at the particle 13 position. The remaining part of the string is still at rest.
Note: If we have one point that vibrates in place, it is in a different position at
different times, we get figure 1.9. If we have vibrations of several different points
at the same moment in time, we get figure 1.10.
In figure 1.11 we have indicated the traveling LONGITUDINAL HARMONIC

Fig. 1.11 Longitudinal harmonic motion

Again, as in the previous example for transverse waves, the first longitudinal
particle starts moving, in this case to the right as indicated. The process is exactly
the same as for the transverse motion, except that the particles in this case move
in the direction of propagation. The bottom part indicates the particle displace-
ment, and the top part shows the resulting waveform.

Periodic Motion
When the resultant force acting on a body is not constant but repeats itself at
regular time intervals T (period), the body is said to move with periodic or
harmonic motion; i.e., if a body at time t is found in a given position, provided its
motion is periodic, it will return to the same position after a time t + T.
Waves and Sound 13

An example of “quasi” periodic motion is the oscillation of a weight attached to

a spring or the oscillation of a pendulum. The words quasi periodic are used since
the amplitude of successive oscillations decreases because of frictional forces
acting on both systems. These types of oscillations are often called aperiodic.
Harmonic motion can be plotted on Cartesian coordinates to give an idea of
how the amplitude varies as a function of time, as was demonstrated above. The
figure 1.12 below shows a fairly complex harmonic motion in (a) and the simplest
one in (b), which is also called a sine or cosine curve because it can be described
by the sine and cosine functions.

Fig. 1.12 Complex harmonic motion (a) and simple harmonic motion (b)

At this stage, it is also worth mentioning that any complex periodic or

aperiodic event can be described by the combination of sine or cosine functions.
As already mentioned, periodic motion can be represented by sine or cosine
functions. For this purpose, the reference circle can be used to explain how two
functions can describe periodic motion.

Fig. 1.13 Vector reference circle and x and y coordinates

14 Seismic Methods and Applications

Vector A rotates at a uniform constant velocity denoted by the Greek letter w

(omega). Now, suppose that the vector at each complete revolution per unit of
time returns to position a. The angular position of this vector at subsequent time
t is given by angle f such that f = w t + f. Therefore, the position of the vector in
terms of x and y coordinates is given by
x = A cos(w t + f)
y = A sin(w t + f)
f in the equations is called the phase angle and is defined as the fractional part of
a period through which the independent variable (t, in our case) has advanced
from our arbitrary origin.
By plotting the various values of sine and cosine as a function of the angular
position on Cartesian coordinates, we obtain two simple harmonic functions.
Although the shape of these two functions is the same, the phase of the cosine
function is displaced by p /2 with respect to the sine function if both are plotted
on the same axis.
2p A
The constant circular velocity is written as w = , or w = 2pf A .


A body or mass which is elastic possesses the property of recovering its original
form when a distorting or constraining force is applied. Perhaps one of the most
descriptive examples of this is a coil spring, but the characteristic is also found in
seemingly rigid matter such as ROCK or METAL. Because fluids and gasses are
not elastic, the transverse waves will not propagate through fluids and gases.
Remember this when we discuss AVO and Rock Physics in later chapters.
Robert Hooke (English scientist and mathematician, 1635–1703) discovered
that elastic displacement in many materials is directly proportional to the force
exerted upon them. In other words, the recovering force is proportional to the
distorting or constraining force. This relationship can be expressed mathe-
matically as: F = –k x , where F is the elastic force exerted by the deformed
body and x is the displacement. The constant of proportionality k (also called
stiffness of the material) has the dimensions of force per unit. This is illustrated in
figure 1.14.
When an object obeying Hooke’s law is displaced from its equilibrium position
and released, the subsequent motion is periodic. This property can be used to
explain the transfer of mechanical energy from one point to another in an elastic
medium. This phenomenon is called mechanical wave propagation, and is the
basis of seismic exploration.
Waves and Sound 15

Fig. 1.14 Hooke’s elastic forces

Although energy can take many forms in nature, waves are perhaps the most
important since in wave form energy can be transferred from place to place. Some
waves, such as heat, light and acoustic or sound waves, are discernible by human
senses while others, such as ultrasonic waves, radio waves, etc. are not.
A physical example of how waves are propagated is given by throwing a
pebble into a pool. Where the pebble breaks the surface of the water a series of
ripples begins to spread outward in the form of concentric circles. If a floating
object encounters these ripples, it tends to move up and down in synchrony with
the peaks and troughs of the ripples that were created.
Wave energy can be divided into two broad classes, viz. mechanical and
electromagnetic; the former can propagate in a medium only, whereas the latter is
able to also propagate in a vacuum. Mechanical waves can be generated by
applying a force or a set of forces simultaneously at a point in a medium. Then,
according to Newton’s second law, the equilibrium of particles at that point is
disrupted and as a result they receive acceleration in the direction of the applied
force(s). The accelerated particles collide with neighboring particles delivering
energy to them and then return toward their original equilibrium location but,
owing to inertia (Newton’s first law), each particle overshoots. The motion of the
particles is then reversed by forces drawing them toward equilibrium, but again
they overshoot, and so on.