pure and applied geophysics

, Volume 132, Issue 1–2, pp 401–415 | Cite as

Complex rays applied to wave propagation in a viscoelastic medium

  • D. J. Hearn
  • E. S. Krebes


In order to trace a ray between known source and receiver locations in a perfectly elastic medium, the take-off angle must be determined, or equialently, the ray parameter. In a viscoelastic medium, the initial value of a second angle, the attenuation angle (the angle between the normal to the plane wavefront and the direction of maximum attenuation), must also be determined. There seems to be no agreement in the literature as to how this should be done. In computing anelastic synthetic seismograms, some authors have simply chosen arbitrary numerical values for the initial attenuation angle, resulting in different raypaths for different choices. There exists, however, a procedure in which the arbitrariness is not present, i.e., in which the raypath is uniquely determined. It consists of computing the value of the anelastic ray parameter for which the phase function is stationary (Fermat's principle). This unique value of the ray parameter gives unique values for the take-off and attenuation angles. The coordinates of points on these stationary raypaths are complex numbers. Such rays are known as complex rays. They have been used to study electromagnetic wave propagation in lossy media. However, ray-synthetic seismograms can be computed by this procedure without concern for the details of complex raypath coordinates. To clarify the nature of complex rays, we study two examples involving a ray passing through a vertically inhomogeneous medium. In the first example, the medium consists of a sequence of discrete homogeneous layers. We find that the coordinates of points on the ray are generally complex (other than the source and receiver points which are usually assumed to lie in real space), except for a ray which is symmetric about an axis down its center, in which case the center point of the ray lies in real space. In the second example, the velocity varies continuously and linearly with depth. We show that, in geneneral, the turning point of the ray lies in complex space (unlike the symmetric ray in the discrete layer case), except if the ratio of the velocity gradient to the complex frequency-dependent velocity at the surface is a real number. We also present a numerical example which demonstrates that the differences between parameters, such as arrival time and raypath angles, for the stationary ray and for rays computed by the above-mentioned arbitrary approaches can be substantial.

Key words

Complex rays viscoelastic waves anelasticity attenuation Fermat's principle synthetic seismograms ray tracing 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. J. Hearn
    • 1
  • E. S. Krebes
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geology and GeophysicsUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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