High-resolution seismic reflections have been used effectively to investigate sinkholes formed from the dissolution of a bedded salt unit found throughout most of Central Kansas. Surface subsidence can have devastating effects on transportation structures. Roads, rails, bridges, and pipelines can even be dramatically affected by minor ground instability. Areas susceptible to surface subsidence can put public safety at risk. Subsurface expressions significantly larger than surface depressions are consistently observed on seismic images recorded over sinkholes in Kansas. Until subsidence reaches the ground surface, failure appears to be controlled by compressional forces evidenced by faults with reverse orientation. Once a surface depression forms or dissolution of the salt slows or stops, subsidence structures are consistent with a tensional stress environment with prevalent normal faults. Detecting areas of rapid subsidence potential, prior to surface failure, is the ultimate goal of any geotechnical survey where the ground surface is susceptible to settling. Seismic reflection images have helped correlate active subsidence to dormant paleofeatures, project horizontal growth of active sinkholes based on subsurface structures, and appraise the risk of catastrophic failure.
Shallow shear-wave seismic reflection imaging, using a sledgehammer and mass energy source and standard processing, has become increasingly common in mapping near-surface geologic features, especially in water-saturated, unconsolidated sediments. Tests of the method in the Mississippi Embayment region of the central United States show interpretable reflection arrivals in the depth range of < 10 m to > 100 m with the potential for increased resolution when compared with compressional-wave data. Shear-wave reflection profiles were used to help interpret the significance of neotectonic surface deformation at five sites in the Mississippi Embayment. The interpreted profiles show a range of shallow structural styles that include reverse faulting, fault propagation folding, and reactivated normal faulting, and provide crucial subsurface evidence in support of paleoseismologic trenching and shallow drilling.
The 1D τ-p inversion algorithm is widely employed to generate starting models with most computer programs that implement refraction tomography. However, this algorithm emphasizes the vertical resolution of many layers, and as a result, it frequently fails to detect even large lateral variations in seismic velocities, such as the decreases that are indicative of shear zones. This study presents a case that demonstrates the failure of the 1D τ-p inversion algorithm to define or even detect a major shear zone that is 50 m or ten stations wide. Furthermore, the majority of refraction tomography programs parameterize the seismic velocities within each layer with vertical velocity gradients. By contrast, the 2D generalized reciprocal method (GRM) inversion algorithms emphasize the lateral resolution of individual layers. This study demonstrates the successful detection and definition of the 50-m wide shear zone with the GRM inversion algorithms. The existence of the shear zone is corroborated by a 2D analysis of the head wave amplitudes and by numerous closely spaced orthogonal seismic profiles carried out as part of a later 3D refraction investigation. Furthermore, a 1D analysis of the head wave amplitudes indicates that a reversal in the seismic velocities, rather than vertical velocity gradients, occurs in the weathered layers. While all seismic refraction operations should aim to provide as accurate depth estimates as is practical, the major conclusion reached in this study is that refraction inversion algorithms that emphasize the lateral resolution of individual layers generate more useful results for geotechnical and environmental applications. The advantages of the improved lateral resolution are obtained with 2D profiles in which the structural features can be recognized from the magnitudes of the variations in the seismic velocities. Furthermore, the spatial patterns obtained with 3D investigations facilitate the recognition of structural features that do not display any intrinsic variation or "signature" in seismic velocities.
We determined the seismic model of the soil column within a residential project site in Istanbul, Turkey. Specifically, we conducted a refraction seismic survey at 20 locations using a receiver spread with 484.5-Hz vertical geophones at 2-m intervals. We applied nonlinear tomography to first-arrival times to estimate the P-wave velocity-depth profiles and performed Rayleigh-wave inversion to estimate the S-wave velocity-depth profiles down to a depth of 30 m at each of the locations. We then combined the seismic velocities with the geotechnical borehole information regarding the lithology of the soil column and determined the site-specific geotechnical earthquake engineering parameters for the site. Specifically, we computed the maximum soil amplification ratio, maximum surface-bedrock acceleration ratio, depth interval of significant acceleration, maximum soil-rock response ratio, and design spectrum periods TA-TB. We conducted reflection seismic surveys along five line traverses with lengths between 150 and 300 m and delineated landslide failure surfaces within the site. We recorded shot gathers at 2-m intervals along each of the seismic line traverses using a receiver spread with 4 840-Hz vertical geophones at 2-m intervals. We applied nonlinear tomography to first-arrival times to estimate a P-wave velocity-depth model and analyzed the reflected waves to obtain a seismic image of the deep near-surface along each of the line traverses.
A three-dimensional model of near-surface shear-wave velocity in the deep alluvial basin underlying the metropolitan area of Las Vegas, Nevada (USA), is being developed for earthquake site response projections. The velocity dataset, which includes 230 measurements, is interpolated across the model using depth-dependent correlations of velocity with sediment type. The sediment-type database contains more than 1 400 well and borehole logs. Sediment sequences reported in logs are assigned to one of four units. A characteristic shear-wave velocity profile is developed for each unit by analyzing closely spaced pairs of velocity profiles and well or borehole logs. The resulting velocity model exhibits reasonable values and patterns, although it does not explicitly honor the measured shear-wave velocity profiles. Site response investigations that applied a preliminary version of the velocity model support a two-zone ground-shaking hazard model for the valley. Areas in which clay predominates in the upper 30 m are predicted to have stronger ground motions than the rest of the basin.
High-frequency (≥2 Hz) Rayleigh-wave data acquired with a multichannel recording system have been utilized to determine shear (S)-wave velocities in near-surface geophysics since the early 1980s. This overview article discusses the main research results of high-frequency surface-wave techniques achieved by research groups at the Kansas Geological Survey and China University of Geosciences in the last 15 years. The multichannel analysis of surface wave (MASW) method is a non-invasive acoustic approach to estimate near-surface S-wave velocity. The differences between MASW results and direct borehole measurements are approximately 15% or less and random. Studies show that simultaneous inversion with higher modes and the fundamental mode can increase model resolution and an investigation depth. The other important seismic property, quality factor (Q), can also be estimated with the MASW method by inverting attenuation coefficients of Rayleigh waves. An inverted model (S-wave velocity or Q) obtained using a damped least-squares method can be assessed by an optimal damping vector in a vicinity of the inverted model determined by an objective function, which is the trace of a weighted sum of model-resolution and model-covariance matrices. Current developments include modeling high-frequency Rayleigh-waves in near-surface media, which builds a foundation for shallow seismic or Rayleigh-wave inversion in the time-offset domain; imaging dispersive energy with high resolution in the frequency-velocity domain and possibly with data in an arbitrary acquisition geometry, which opens a door for 3D surface-wave techniques; and successfully separating surface-wave modes, which provides a valuable tool to perform S-wave velocity profiling with high-horizontal resolution.
Geophysical techniques can help to bridge the inherent gap that exists with regard to spatial resolution and coverage for classical hydrological methods. This has led to the emergence of a new and rapidly growing research domain generally referred to as hydrogeophysics. Given the differing sensitivities of various geophysical techniques to hydrologically relevant parameters, their inherent trade-off between resolution and range, as well as the notoriously site-specific nature of petrophysical parameter relations, the fundamental usefulness of multi-method surveys for reducing uncertainties in data analysis and interpretation is widely accepted. A major challenge arising from such endeavors is the quantitative integration of the resulting vast and diverse database into a unified model of the probed subsurface region that is consistent with all available measurements. To this end, we present a novel approach toward hydrogeophysical data integration based on a Monte-Carlo-type conditional stochastic simulation method that we consider to be particularly suitable for high-resolution local-scale studies. Monte Carlo techniques are flexible and versatile, allowing for accounting for a wide variety of data and constraints of differing resolution and hardness, and thus have the potential of providing, in a geostatistical sense, realistic models of the pertinent target parameter distributions. Compared to more conventional approaches, such as co-kriging or cluster analysis, our approach provides significant advancements in the way that larger-scale structural information contained in the hydrogeophysical data can be accounted for. After outlining the methodological background of our algorithm, we present the results of its application to the integration of porosity log and tomographic crosshole georadar data to generate stochastic realizations of the detailed local-scale porosity structure. Our procedure is first tested on pertinent synthetic data and then applied to a field dataset collected at the Boise Hydrogeophysical Research Site. Finally, we compare the performance of our data integration approach to that of more conventional methods with regard to the prediction of flow and transport phenomena in highly heterogeneous media and discuss the implications arising.
In this review article, we present recent developments and improvements in magnetic resonance sounding (MRS), a newly established geophysical exploration method that provides unique information about hydrogeophysical properties due to its direct sensitivity to hydrogen protons and proton dynamics. Starting with the most sophisticated and complete MRS formulation, we give a detailed view on how to solve the equation, i.e., inverting exactly for all model parameters: water content, decay time, and resistivity. Giving a short review of general inversion schemes used in geophysics, the special properties of MRS inversion are evaluated and the development of MRS inversion over recent years is shown. We present the extension of MRS to magnetic resonance tomography (MRT), i.e., the extension to two-dimensional investigations and appropriate inversions. Finally, we address restrictions, limitations, and inconsistencies as well as future developments.
The formation factor relates bulk resistivity to pore fluid resistivity in porous materials. Understanding the formation factor is essential in using electrical and electromagnetic methods to monitor leachate accumulations and movements both within and around landfills. Specifically, the formation factor allows leachate resistivity, the degree of saturation, and, possibly, even the hydraulic conductivity of the waste to be estimated from non-invasive surface measurements. In this study, apparent formation factors are computed for three landfills with different types of waste as well as sediments contaminated by landfill leachate. Resistivity soundings at the closed Mallard North landfill in suburban Chicago (Illinois, USA) mapped leachate surfaces that were confirmed by monitoring wells. The resistivity of leachate-saturated waste from resistivity sounding inversions was then divided by the leachate resistivity values measured in-situ to compute apparent formation factors (Fa) ranging from 1.6 to 4.9. A global Fa of 3.0±1.9 was computed for the entire monitored portion of this landfill. At a nearby mixed laboratory waste landfill, a 2D inverted resistivity section was used to compute an Fa of 2.9. Finally, a distinctly different Fa value of 10.6±2.8 was computed for leachate-saturated retorted oil shale wastes north of Maoming (茂名), Guangdong (广东) Province, China. Shallow aquifers in the Laohuling (老虎岭) Formation near this landfill are polluted by acidic leachate containing heavy metals and organic compounds. The Fa for aquifers containing contaminated groundwater fall in the same range as aquifers with normal groundwater, 1.7–3.9. However, models from inverted sounding curves over these contaminated areas exhibit unusually low resistivity layers, which may be diagnostic of contamination.
As I learned it from extensive geo-electromagnetic analogue modeling experiments, some specific nonconventional interpretation parameters, in certain conditions, give more detailed information about the geometry of subsurface resistivity inhomogeneities than the routinely used parameters. In this article, I show several examples, and I present how these early results influenced our later research. An enhanced geometric sensitivity may be due to special array geometry (as we call it "null array"), or it may be due to a narrow and very special frequency range (i.e., the so-called "keyhole" range). Nonconventional but physically based interpretation parameters (like the Poynting vector) or higher order invariants of resistivity or impedance tensors may also give useful additional information about the shape of subsurface bodies. One should be very careful in their application because a large part of these nontraditional approaches are strongly constrained by measuring errors and geological noise.
A large number of unconventional investigations have been implemented, tested, and validated in the field of microgeophysics, with the aim being to solve specific diagnostic and/or monitoring problems regarding civil engineering and cultural heritage studies. The investigations were carried out using different tomographic 2D and 3D approaches as well as different energy sources, namely sonic, ultrasonic and electromagnetic (radar) waves, electric potential fields, and infrared thermography. Many efforts have been made to modify instruments and procedures in order to improve the resolution of the surveys as well as to greatly reduce the time of the measurements without any loss of information. The main new methodologies here discussed are the sonic imprint, the global tomographic traveltime, the electrical resistivity tomography, and the control of external films (patinas) grown on stone monuments. The results seem to be very promising and suggest that it is the moment to dedicate time and effort to this new branch of geophysics, so that these methodologies can be used even more to diagnose, monitor, and safeguard not only engineering buildings and large structures but also ancient monuments and cultural artifacts, like pottery, statues, etc..
The recent proliferation of the 3D reflection seismic method into the near-surface area of geophysical applications, especially in response to the emergence of the need to comprehensively characterize and monitor near-surface carbon dioxide sequestration in shallow saline aquifers around the world, justifies the emphasis on cost-effective and robust quality control and assurance (QC/QA) workflow of 3D seismic data preprocessing that is suitable for near-surface applications. The main purpose of our seismic data preprocessing QC is to enable the use of appropriate header information, data that are free of noise-dominated traces, and/or flawed vertical stacking in subsequent processing steps. In this article, I provide an account of utilizing survey design specifications, noise properties, first breaks, and normal moveout for rapid and thorough graphical QC/QA diagnostics, which are easy to apply and efficient in the diagnosis of inconsistencies. A correlated vibroseis time-lapse 3D-seismic data set from a CO 2-flood monitoring survey is used for demonstrating QC diagnostics. An important by-product of the QC workflow is establishing the number of layers for a refraction statics model in a data-driven graphical manner that capitalizes on the spatial coverage of the 3D seismic data.