09 Sep 2022
09 Sep 2022

Seismic amplitude response to internal heterogeneity of mass-transport deposits

Jonathan Ford1, Angelo Camerlenghi1, Francesca Zolezzi2, and Marilena Calarco2 Jonathan Ford et al.
  • 1National Institute of Oceanography and Applied Geophysics – OGS, Trieste, Italy
  • 2RINA Consulting, Genova, Italy

Abstract. Compared to unfailed sediments, mass-transport deposits are often characterised by a low-amplitude response in single-channel seismic reflection images. This ‘acoustic transparency’ amplitude signature is widely used to delineate mass-transport deposits and is conventionally interpreted as a lack of coherent internal reflectivity due to a loss of preserved internal structure caused by mass-transport processes. In this study we examine the variation in the single-channel seismic response with changing heterogeneity using synthetic 2-D elastic seismic modelling. We model the internal structure of mass-transport deposits as a two-component random medium, using the lateral correlation length (ax) as a proxy for the degree of internal deformation, whilst maintaining approximately constant internal reflectivity with increasing deformation. For a controlled single-source synthetic model a reduction in observed amplitude with reduced ax is consistently observed across a range of vertical correlation lengths (az). For typical AUV sub-bottom profiler acquisition parameters, in a simulated mass-transport deposit with realistic elastic and geostatistical properties, we find that when ax ≈ 1 m, recorded seismic amplitudes are, on average, reduced by ∼ 15 % relative to unfailed sediments (ax ≫ 103 m). We also observe that deformation significantly larger than core-scale (ax > 0.1 m) can generate a significant amplitude decrease. These synthetic modelling results should discourage interpretation of the internal structure of mass-transport deposits based on seismic amplitudes alone, as ‘acoustically transparent’ mass-transport deposits may still preserve coherent, metre-scale internal structure. In addition, the minimum scale of heterogeneity required to produce a significant reduction in seismic amplitudes is likely much larger than the diameter of sediment cores, meaning that ‘acoustically transparent’ mass-transport deposits may still appear well-stratified and undeformed at core-scale.

Jonathan Ford et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-733', Jasper Moernaut, 21 Sep 2022
  • CC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-733', Martino Foschi, 17 Oct 2022
  • EC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-733', Simone Pilia, 18 Oct 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on EC1', Jonathan Ford, 22 Nov 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-733', Martino Foschi, 22 Oct 2022

Jonathan Ford et al.

Model code and software

Seismic amplitude response to internal heterogeneity of mass-transport deposits Ford, Jonathan; Camerlenghi, Angelo; Zolezzi, Francesca; Calarco, Marilena

Jonathan Ford et al.


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Short summary
Submarine landslides commonly appear as low-amplitude zones in seismic data. Previous studies have attributed this to a lack of preserved internal structure. We use seismic modelling to show that an amplitude reduction can be generated even when there is still metre-scale internal structure, by simply deforming the bedding. This has implications for interpreting failure type, for core-seismic correlation and for discriminating landslides from other "transparent" phenomena such as free gas.