Traveltime computation with the linearized eikonal equation for anisotropic media

Tariq Alkhalifah*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


A linearized eikonal equation is developed for transversely isotropic (TI) media with a vertical symmetry axis (VTI). It is linear with respect to perturbations in the horizontal velocity or the anisotropy parameter η. An iterative linearization of the eikonal equation is used as the basis for an algorithm of finite-difference traveltime computations. A practical implementation of this iterative technique is to start with a background model that consists of an elliptically anisotropic, inhomogeneous medium, since traveltimes for this type of medium can be calculated efficiently using eikonal solvers, such as the fast marching method. This constrains the perturbation to changes in the anisotropy parameter η (the parameter most responsible for imaging improvements in anisotropic media). The iterative implementation includes repetitive calculation of η from traveltimes, which is then used to evaluate the perturbation needed for the next round of traveltime calculations using the linearized eikonal equation. Unlike isotropic media, interpolation is needed to estimate η in areas where the traveltime field is independent of η, such as areas where the wave propagates vertically. Typically, two to three iterations can give sufficient accuracy in traveltimes for imaging applications. The cost of each iteration is slightly less than the cost of a typical eikonal solver. However, this method will ultimately provide traveltime solutions for VTI media. The main limitation of the method is that some smoothness of the medium is required for the iterative implementation to work, especially since we evaluate derivatives of the traveltime field as part of the iterative approach. If a single perturbation is sufficient for the traveltime calculation, which may be the case for weak anisotropy, no smoothness of the medium is necessary. Numerical tests demonstrate the robustness and efficiency of this approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-382
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Prospecting
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics


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