Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 170, Issue 12, pp 2021–2035 | Cite as

Seismic Rheological Model and Reflection Coefficients of the Brittle–Ductile Transition

  • José M. CarcioneEmail author
  • Flavio Poletto


It is well established that the upper—cooler—part of the crust is brittle, while deeper zones present ductile behaviour. In some cases, this brittle–ductile transition is a single seismic reflector with an associated reflection coefficient. We first develop a stress–strain relation including the effects of crust anisotropy, seismic attenuation and ductility in which deformation takes place by shear plastic flow. Viscoelastic anisotropy is based on the eigenstrain model and the Zener and Burgers mechanical models are used to model the effects of seismic attenuation, velocity dispersion, and steady-state creep flow, respectively. The stiffness components of the brittle and ductile media depend on stress and temperature through the shear viscosity, which is obtained by the Arrhenius equation and the octahedral stress criterion. The P- and S-wave velocities decrease as depth and temperature increase due to the geothermal gradient, an effect which is more pronounced for shear waves. We then obtain the reflection and transmission coefficients of a single brittle–ductile interface and of a ductile thin layer. The PP scattering coefficient has a Brewster angle (a sign change) in both cases, and there is substantial PS conversion at intermediate angles. The PP coefficient is sensitive to the layer thickness, unlike the SS coefficient. Thick layers have a well-defined Brewster angle and show higher reflection amplitudes. Finally, we compute synthetic seismograms in a homogeneous medium as a function of temperature.


Brittle–ductile transition melting anisotropy attenuation shear flow reflection coefficient 


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© Springer Basel 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.OGS, Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e di Geofisica SperimentaleSgonicoItaly

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