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Refraction Method

Horizontal Interface(s)
Single Distance versus Travel-Time Equation is a straight line.
Velocity of upper layer is the inverse of the slope of the direct wave arrivals
Velocity of lower layer is the inverse of the slope of the direct wave arrivals
Depth to interface - is determined from the intercept time (x=0) for the head wave
arrivals
Multiple- Additional horizontal interfaces can be determined using the same techniques
(e.g., velocity from the inverse slope of the head wave arrivals and the intercept time).
Intercept time for the deeper interfaces must be adjusted for the time spent traveling
through the overlying layer(s).

Dipping Interfaces - Distance versus Travel-Time Equation is also a straight line. A


single traverse cannot determine if an interface is dipping. Both a forward and a reverse
traverse are required. The presence of a dipping layer is indicated by asymmetry
between the forward and reverse distance versus time curves.
The traverse where the energy source is down dip will have a larger incept
time. Apparent velocity determined from the slope of the travel time curve is too
high.
The traverse with an up dip energy source will have a smaller incept time.
Apparent velocity determined from the inverse slope of the travel time curve is
too low.
The critical angle and the dip of the interface are determined from the
apparent velocities and the velocity of the upper layer. The true velocity of the
lower layer is then computed from Snell's law.
The depth to the interface is determined from the intercept time, the velocity of
the upper layer, and the critical angle.

Non-ideal Surfaces
Low-Velocity zones - cannot be detected by the refraction method because there is no
critical refraction. The inferred depth to an interface below the low-velocity layer will be
deeper than the actual depth.

Thin layers - may be missed by the refraction method because the head waves
produced at the interface are never first arrivals. The inferred depth to an interface below
the thin layer will be shallower than the actual depth.
Horizontal Variations in Velocity - produce a change in slope of the distance versus
time curve that may be mistaken for head wave arrivals if velocity increases away from
the seismic source. However, if the velocity decreases away from the seismic source,
the slope of the distance versus time curve increases (velocity decreases) which cannot
be a head wave arrival.

Interface Discontinuities (diffractions) produce an offset in the travel time curve.


The slopes of the two offset straight-line segments are the same. The amount of offset of
the interface can be determined from the difference in intercept times.
Delay time method - used to map an irregular interface
The delay time is the difference between the actual travel time and the time it takes to
travel horizontally from source to receiver at the velocity of the lower medium.
Depth to the interface at each geophone can be determined from the forward travel
time, the reverse travel time, the reciprocal time, and the velocities of the upper and
lower mediums.
The velocity of the lower medium is determined by fitting the difference in forward and
reverse travel times versus distance to a straight line. The velocity is equal to 2 times the
inverse of the slope of the line.

Field Methods
Geophone Setup- offset - distance from source to first receiver. Spread - distance
between adjacent geophones. As a general rule the furthest geophone should be 3 to 4
times as far away from the source as the deepest interface.
Corrections to data- If the surface has significant topography then the raw data must
be corrected for elevation to some horizontal datum (e.g., sea level). The correction is
required because the seismic waves are travelling different distances down to the
interface depending on the location of the source and the receiver.

Applications - typical shallow use of refraction method is depth to bedrock or depth


to the water table.