Colluvial wedge imaging using traveltime and waveform tomography along the Wasatch Fault near Mapleton, Utah

M. L. Buddensiek, J. Sheng, T. Crosby, G. T. Schuster, R. L. Bruhn, R. He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Four high-resolution seismic surveys were conducted across the Wasatch Fault Zone near Mapleton, Utah. The objective was twofold: (1) To use velocity tomograms and reflection images to delineate fault structures and colluvial wedges to more than twice the depth of the Mapleton Megatrench excavated by URS personnel, (2) to assess the strengths and limitations of traveltime and waveform tomography by synthetic studies and comparison of the tomogram to the ground truth seen in the Megatrench log. Four out of the five faults within the trench area are accurately identified in the migrated image and in the tomograms, and the main fault's dip angle is estimated to be between 71 and 80°. Two additional faults are interpreted outside the trench. The faults can be delineated down to 30 m below the surface, which is 20 m deeper than the excavated trench. Five out of six colluvial wedges found in the trench log were seen as low-velocity zones (LVZs) in the tomogram, however the biggest colluvial wedge could not be identified by either tomography method. Waveform tomography prevailed over ray-based traveltime tomography by more clearly recovering the faults and LVZs. A newly discovered LVZ at a depth of 18-21 m below the surface possibly represents a colluvial wedge and is estimated to be less than 21000 years old. If this LVZ is a colluvial wedge, the earthquake history obtained by trenching can be extended from 13500 to 21000 yr with seismic tomography. Our results further demonstrate the capability of tomography in identifying faults, and show that waveform tomography more accurately resolves colluvial wedges compared to traveltime tomography. However, despite the successful recovery of most faults and some, but not all, colluvial wedges, both tomography methods show many more LVZs besides the wedges, so that an unambiguous interpretation cannot be made. A major part of the ambiguity in the tomograms is due to the many major faults, which result in an uneven raypath coverage as our synthetic studies show. Hence, seismic trenching will be more successful at simple fault geometries. However, even under optimal conditions there will be some ambiguity in the interpretation, so that detected LVZs should be drilled, cored, and dated to determine the history of the ancient earthquakes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)686-697
Number of pages12
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Paleoseismology
  • Seismic tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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