Investigating mode osculation phenomenon in MASW and MALW methods

Document Type : Research


MSc in Geophysics


There are two types of seismic waves: those can propagate inside a medium (body waves) and those traveling along the Earth’s surface (surface waves). In the last decades, a number of papers dealing with surface waves have been published but it must be recalled that their theoretical description and first applications date back to almost a century ago. Surface waves have been in fact used for a number of applications since 1920s: nondestructive testing (even for medical applications, geotechnical studies and crustal seismology). Recently the interest toward their application has increased both for the increasing demand for efficient methodologies to apply in engineering projects and because the recent regulations addressing the assessment of the seismic hazard (for instance the Eurocode8) are giving the necessary emphasis to the determination of shear-wave velocity vertical profile. This parameter is commonly used in geotechnical studies for classifying soil types.
Among various methods for estimating shear-wave velocity profile, MASW and MALW methods are most popular because of their fast performance, low cost and their nondestructive nature. These methods are based on analyzing dispersive properties of Rayleigh and Love waves. In surface wave methods a correct identification of the modes is essential to avoid serious errors in building near surface shear wave velocity model. Here we consider the case of higher-mode misidentification known as “osculation” where the energy peak shifts at low frequencies from the fundamental to the first higher mode. This jump occurs around a well-defined frequency where the two modes get very close to each other. This problem is known to take place in complex subsurface situations, for example in inversely dispersive sites or in presence of a strong impedance contrast, such as a soil layer resting on top of the bedrock. This phenomenon can cause a misleading interpretation of dispersion curve by the operator, which is completely hazardous for engineering projects.
In this paper we investigated mode osculation phenomenon for both MASW and MALW methods using synthetic and real datasets. We showed that MALW has a far better performance facing this problem, while it is a main drawback for the MASW method. Generally, when we encounter a low-velocity layer in the subsurface, the identification of Rayleigh wave’s fundamental mode (MASW method) becomes almost impossible, while at the same time dispersion modes of Love waves (MALW method) are well separated, even in extreme conditions. In addition, we showed that performing single-station microtremor ellipticity analysis can also be quite useful. It can warn against the presence of a strong impedance contrast, it indicates the critical frequency at which mode osculation takes place, and also the HVSR data can be used as a constraint in the inversion process of surface wave data. So performing HVSR method alongside MASW and MALW methods not only can predict mode osculation frequency and strong impedance contrasts presence, but also can help us with joint-inversion of the surface wave data, resulting in a more solid Vs profile. We evaluated the performances of the proposed methods on real and synthetic seismic data and results were satisfying.


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