Seismic Topography

Seismic tomography is a technique for imaging the subsurface of the Earth with seismic waves produced by earthquakes or explosions. P-, S-, and surface waves can be used for tomographic models. The data received at seismometers are used to solve an inverse problem, wherein the locations of reflection and refraction of the wave paths are determined. This solution can be used to create 3D images of velocity anomalies which may be interpreted as structural, thermal, or compositional variations.

Tomography is solved as an inverse problem. Seismic travel time data are compared to an initial Earth model and the model is modified until the best possible fit between the model predictions and observed data is found. Seismic waves would travel in straight lines if Earth was of uniform composition, but the compositional layering, tectonic structure, and thermal variations reflect and refract seismic waves. The location and magnitude of these variations can be calculated by the inversion process, although solutions to tomographic inversions are non-unique.

Seismic tomography is similar to medical x-ray computed tomography (CT scan) in that a computer processes receiver data to produce a 3D image. Seismic tomography has to deal with the analysis of curved ray paths which are reflected and refracted within the earth and potential uncertainty in the location of the earthquake hypocenter.

(text from wikipedia)

Simplified and interpreted P- and S-wave velocity variations in the mantle across southern North America showing the subducted Farallon Plate. from

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Last revision 11/15/2016