Offset-variable density improves acoustic full-waveform inversion: a shallow marine case study

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We have previously applied three-dimensional acoustic, anisotropic, full-waveform inversion to a shallow-water, wide-angle, ocean-bottom-cable dataset to obtain a high-resolution velocity model. This velocity model produced an improved match between synthetic and field data, better flattening of common-image gathers, a closer fit to well logs, and an improvement in the pre-stack depth-migrated image. Nevertheless, close examination reveals that there is a systematic mismatch between the observed and predicted data from this full-waveform inversion model, with the predicted data being consistently delayed in time. We demonstrate that this mismatch cannot be produced by systematic errors in the starting model, by errors in the assumed source wavelet, by incomplete convergence, or by the use of an insufficiently fine finite-difference mesh. Throughout these tests, the mismatch is remarkably robust with the significant exception that we do not see an analogous mismatch when inverting synthetic acoustic data. We suspect therefore that the mismatch arises because of inadequacies in the physics that are used during inversion. For ocean-bottom-cable data in shallow water at low frequency, apparent observed arrival times, in wide-angle turning-ray data, result from the characteristics of the detailed interference pattern between primary refractions, surface ghosts, and a large suite of wide-angle multiple reflected and/or multiple refracted arrivals. In these circumstances, the dynamics of individual arrivals can strongly influence the apparent arrival times of the resultant compound waveforms. In acoustic full-waveform inversion, we do not normally know the density of the seabed, and we do not properly account for finite shear velocity, finite attenuation, and fine-scale anisotropy variation, all of which can influence the relative amplitudes of different interfering arrivals, which in their turn influence the apparent kinematics. Here, we demonstrate that the introduction of a non-physical offset-variable water density during acoustic full-waveform inversion of this ocean-bottom-cable field dataset can compensate efficiently and heuristically for these inaccuracies. This approach improves the travel-time match and consequently increases both the accuracy and resolution of the final velocity model that is obtained using purely acoustic full-waveform inversion at minimal additional cost.

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