Purdue University Graduate School

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Theory Meets Terrain: Advancing the Alpine Fault Insights with Seismic Anisotropy Inversion

posted on 2024-04-10, 16:30 authored by Oumeng ZhangOumeng Zhang

The Alpine Fault, located in the South Island, New Zealand, is a subject of intense geological study due to its potential to trigger large earthquakes. It encompasses a complex system with the interplay of mechanics, thermodynamics, and fluid. Gaining insights into these systems not only enhances our understanding of the fault but also holds the potential to guide risk mitigation efforts.

The damage extent and fracture networks within the metamorphic rock mass adjacent to the fault can be effectively characterized by seismic anisotropy, an elastic property of rock, where seismic waves travel at different speeds with variation directions. This thesis presents a comprehensive exploration of seismic anisotropy in the hanging wall immediately adjacent to the principal slip zone of the Alpine Fault in New Zealand. Leveraging the borehole seismic data from a unique scientific drilling project and advanced numerical modeling techniques, the ultimate goal is to invert and parameterize the bulk seismic anisotropy.

Motivated by these challenges, the thesis undertakes several key initiatives: The first effort focuses on gaining a comprehensive understanding of an innovative method for seismic measurement: Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) – examining its operational principles, factors influencing observed wavelets, and how it contrasts with traditional point sensors for accurate interpretation. Subsequently, the research introduces the implementation of an open-source seismic wave solver designed for modeling elastic wave propagation in complicated anisotropic media. This solver is further optimized for computational efficiency with its performance rigorously benchmarked.

With this preparedness, the inversion is further facilitated by high-performance computing (HPC) and a deep-learning algorithm specifically designed for automatically picking transit times. The inverted bulk elastic constants, compared to the intact rock, reveal 28% to 35% reductions in qP-wave velocity, characterizing the damage due to mesoscale fracture. Further analysis sheds light on the existence of orthogonal fracture sets and an intricate geometrical arrangement that agree with the previous borehole image log. This represents an advancement in our ability to characterize and understand the geologic processes with seismic anisotropy.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Robert Nowack

Additional Committee Member 2

Douglas R. Schmitt

Additional Committee Member 3

Laura Pyrak-Nolte

Additional Committee Member 4

Yunyue Elita Li

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