Detection of seismic anisotropy using ocean bottom seismometers: a case study from the northern headwall of the Storegga Slide

RJK Exley, Graham Westbrook, RR Haacke, S Peacock

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15 Citations (Scopus)


P>Azimuthal seismic anisotropy has been identified from the analysis of S-waves generated by P to S mode conversion in the Pleistocene sediments that form the northern headwall of the Storegga Slide, which were investigated with a seismic experiment employing a seabed array of ocean-bottom seismometers and a grid of airgun shots. The principal technique used to detect the anisotropy was azimuthal stacking of the radial and transverse horizontal geophone components, after the application of moveout, to show the variations in amplitude, phase and cumulative traveltime effects of S-waves, ultimately providing information that identified the 'fast' and 'slow' S-wave polarization orientations. Particle-motion analysis was used to corroborate the results and provide further information on the magnitudes of cumulative S-wave splitting. A 2-D ray-traced inversion of the traveltimes of pre-critical P and PS arrivals provided a velocity model from which the variation with depth of V-p, V-s and anisotropy could be compared with lithological and stratigraphic data from a borehole at the centre of the OBS array. Increased anisotropic response was observed to be coincident with high velocity units, which have high mica but low water content and are interpreted to be of glacial origin. The analysis of azimuthal seismic anisotropy shows clear evidence for horizontal transverse isotropy or an orthorhombic symmetry. The distribution in orientations of the fast plane of symmetry is broadly bimodal (E-W and NE-SW) across the OBS array. The E-W group showed correlation with the headwalls of old, buried slides and other faults visible within coherency attributes calculated from an accompanying 3-D seismic data set and with the strike of some of the headwalls of slides shown in multibeam bathymetry. However, the pattern of headwall fractures shown in the bathymetry is complicated and reticulate, and the NE-SW orientation is also well represented. We infer that the cause of the anisotropy is the presence of vertical to sub-vertical, fluid-filled fractures and micro-cracks, partially held open by high pore-fluid pressure. The fracture orientations are controlled primarily by the present-day gravitationally induced down-slope stress, which is mediated by the heterogeneous nature of sub-surface, causing local changes in the orientation of the principal stresses at the margins of incipient or failed slides. The fractures, if connected, are likely to increase vertical permeability within the sediment column significantly, and influence the distribution of gas hydrate within the strata.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-210
Number of pages23
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2010


  • Fracture and flow
  • Fractures and faults
  • Seismic anisotropy
  • Submarine landslides
  • Gas and hydrate systems
  • Seismic tomography


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