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Seismic Reflection Experiments Imaging the Physical Nature of Crustal Structures in Southern California


Louie, John Nikolai (1987) Seismic Reflection Experiments Imaging the Physical Nature of Crustal Structures in Southern California. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/e3d2-8b93.


Seismic reflection methods have been extensively used to probe the Earth's crust and suggest the nature of its formative processes. The analysis of multi-offset seismic reflection data extends the technique from a reconnaissance method to a powerful scientific tool that can be applied to test specific hypotheses. The treatment of reflections at multiple offsets becomes tractable if the assumptions of high-frequency rays are valid for the problem being considered. Their validity can be tested by applying the methods of analysis to full wave synthetics.

Three studies illustrate the application of these principles to investigations of the nature of the crust in southern California. A survey shot by the COCORP consortium in 1977 across the San Andreas fault near Parkfield revealed events in the record sections whose arrival time decreased with offset. The reflectors generating these events are imaged using a multi-offset three-dimensional Kirchhoff migration. Migrations of full wave acoustic synthetics having the same limitations in geometric coverage as the field survey demonstrate the utility of this back projection process for imaging. The migrated depth sections show the locations of the major physical boundaries of the San Andreas fault zone. The zone is bounded on the southwest by a near-vertical fault juxtaposing a Tertiary sedimentary section against uplifted crystalline rocks of the fault zone block. On the northeast, the fault zone is bounded by a fault dipping into the San Andreas, which includes slices of serpentinized ultramafics, intersecting it at 3 km depth. These interpretations can be made despite complications introduced by lateral heterogeneities.

In 1985 the Calcrust consortium designed a survey in the eastern Mojave desert to image structures in both the shallow and the deep crust. Preliminary field experiments showed that the major geophysical acquisition problem to be solved was the poor penetration of seismic energy through a low-velocity surface layer. Its effects could be mitigated through special acquisition and processing techniques. Data obtained from industry showed that quality data could be obtained from areas having a deeper, older sedimentary cover, causing a re-definition of the geologic objectives. Long offset stationary arrays were designed to provide reversed, wider angle coverage of the deep crust over parts of the survey. The preliminary field tests and constant monitoring of data quality and parameter adjustment allowed 108 km of excellent crustal data to be obtained.

This dataset, along with two others from the central and western Mojave, was used to constrain rock properties and the physical condition of the crust. The multi-offset analysis proceeded in two steps. First, an increase in reflection peak frequency with offset is indicative of a thinly layered reflector. The thickness and velocity contrast of the layering can be calculated from the spectral dispersion, to discriminate between structures resulting from broad scale or local effects. Second, the amplitude effects at different offsets of P-P scattering from weak elastic heterogeneities indicate whether the signs of the changes in density, rigidity, and Lame's parameter at the reflector agree or are opposed. The effects of reflection generation and propagation in a heterogeneous, anisotropic crust were contained by the design of the experiment and the simplicity of the observed amplitude and frequency trends. Multi-offset spectra and amplitude trend stacks of the three Mojave Desert datasets suggest that the most reflective structures in the middle crust are strong Poisson's ratio (σ) contrasts. Porous zones or the juxtaposition of units of mutually distant origin are indicated. Heterogeneities in σ increase towards the top of a basal crustal zone at ~22 km depth. The transition to the basal zone and to the mantle include increases in σ. The Moho itself includes ~400 m layering having a velocity higher than that of the uppermost mantle. The Moho maintains the same configuration across the Mojave despite 5 km of crustal thinning near the Colorado River. This indicates that Miocene extension there either thinned just the basal zone, or that the basal zone developed regionally after the extensional event.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Geophysics
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Geophysics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Allen, Clarence R.
Thesis Committee:
  • Allen, Clarence R. (chair)
  • Clayton, Robert W.
  • Hager, Bradford H.
  • Helmberger, Donald V.
  • Kanamori, Hiroo
  • Silver, Leon T.
Defense Date:2 March 1987
Funding AgencyGrant Number
United States Geological Survey (USGS)UNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:10092013-141757161
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7984
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:11 Oct 2013 15:47
Last Modified:16 Apr 2021 23:09

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