High Frequency Asymptotic Methods for Traveltimes and Anisotropy Parameter Estimation in Azimuthally Varying Media

  • Nabil Masmoudi

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Traveltimes are conventionally evaluated by solving the zero-order approximation of the Wentzel, Kramers and Brillouin (WKB) expansion of the wave equation. This high frequency approximation is good enough for most imaging applications and provides us with a traveltime equation called the eikonal equation. The eikonal equation is a non-linear partial differential equation which can be solved by any of the familiar numerical methods. Among the most popular of these methods is the method of characteristics which yields the ray tracing equations and the finite difference approaches. In the first part of the Master Thesis, we use the ray tracing method to solve the eikonal equation to get P-waves traveltimes for orthorhombic models with arbitrary orientation of symmetry planes. We start with a ray tracing procedure specified in curvilinear coordinate system valid for anisotropy of arbitrary symmetry. The coordinate system is constructed so that the coordinate lines are perpendicular to the symmetry planes of an orthorohombic medium. Advantages of this approach are the conservation of orthorhombic symmetry throughout the model and reduction of the number of parameters specifying the model. We combine this procedure with first-order ray tracing and dynamic ray tracing equations for P waves propagating in smooth, inhomogeneous, weakly anisotropic media. The first-order ray tracing and dynamic ray tracing equations are derived from the exact ones by replacing the exact P-wave eigenvalue of the Christoffel matrix by its first-order approximation. In the second part of the Master Thesis, we compute traveltimes using the fast marching method and we develop an approach to estimate the anisotropy parameters. The idea is to relate them analytically to traveltimes which is challenging in inhomogeneous media. Using perturbation theory, we develop traveltime approximations for transversely isotropic media with horizontal symmetry axis (HTI) as explicit functions of the anellipticity parameter and the symmetry axis azimuth in inhomogeneous background media. Specifically, our expansion assumes an inhomogeneous elliptically anisotropic background medium, which may be obtained from well information and stacking velocity analysis in HTI media. This formulation has advantages on two fronts: on one hand, it alleviates the computational complexity associated with solving the HTI eikonal equation, and on the other hand, it provides a mechanism to scan for the best fitting parameters without the need for repetitive modeling of traveltimes, because the traveltime coefficients of the expansion are independent of the perturbed parameters.
Date of AwardMay 2014
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorTariq Ali Alkhalifah (Supervisor)


  • Traveltimes
  • Anisotropy
  • Ray Tracing
  • eikonal
  • Azimuth
  • Estimation

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