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Reflection and Refraction Seismic Methods

Part of the Springer Geology book series (SPRINGERGEOL)

Abstract

Seismic reflection and refraction methods are routinely used to illuminate sub-seafloor geological relationships, thereby providing a means to investigate a wide range of Earth processes that influence submarine geomorphology. Since the birth of seismic methods for exploration of ore bodies and petroleum in the early part of the 20th century, progressive technological advancements have ensured that the seismic method remains a fundamental geophysical tool in both the oil and gas industry and scientific research. For both marine seismic reflection and refraction methods, the primary principles are based around the notion of sending artificially-generated sound waves downward into the Earth and recording the energy that returns to recording instruments (receivers). In the case of seismic reflection, the down-going wavefield reflects off geological boundaries characterized by density and velocity contrasts before being recorded by an array of receivers. In seismic refraction experiments, the notion is to record energy that has been refracted at multiple geological boundaries before, ultimately, being refracted at a critical angle and then returning to receivers on the seafloor. Survey designs for both methods are many and varied, ranging from relatively simple two-dimensional surveys, to multi-azimuth three-dimensional surveys that illuminate the subsurface from different directions. Although the state of the art in seismic methods is continually evolving, this chapter gives some examples of modern and developing trends that are relevant to investigations into submarine geomorphology. Examples include high-resolution 3D seismic imaging, high-frequency sub-bottom profiling, waveform inversion and deep-towed seismic acquisition. The strength of the seismic reflection method lies in its ability to gain insight into structural and stratigraphic relationships beneath the seafloor, as well as in investigating fluid flow processes. The refraction method, on the other hand, is often used as the tool of choice for crustal-scale investigations into deeply-rooted geological processes that shape the seafloor, such as plate tectonics and volcanism. As with all scientific methods, seismic methods are most powerful when combined with complementary geophysical, geological or geochemical methods to address a common Earth science question.

Keywords

  • Refraction Seismic Method
  • Marine Seismic
  • Submarine Morphology
  • Seismic Reflection
  • Seafloor

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    It should be noted that seismic reflections can also be imaged above (i.e. before) the seafloor: Seismic oceanography is a relatively modern discipline that involves imaging stratification within the ocean (Holbrook et al. 2003).

  2. 2.

    In 2013, the geoscience company CGG released a press statement claiming the largest man-made moving object on Earth—a 3D receiver array with an acquisition footprint of 13.44 km2. This was achieved by towing eight 12 km-long streamers in parallel, with 160 m spacing between the streamers.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the editors of this book for their invitation to write this chapter, and to Sebastian Krastel in particular for his review of the text. We also thank Joerg Bialas and Sebastian Krastel for their permission to present the seismic data shown in Fig. 5.

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Correspondence to Gareth J. Crutchley .

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Crutchley, G.J., Kopp, H. (2018). Reflection and Refraction Seismic Methods. In: Micallef, A., Krastel, S., Savini, A. (eds) Submarine Geomorphology. Springer Geology. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-57852-1_4

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