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Coherent diffraction imaging for enhanced fault and fracture network characterization

Schwarz, Benjamin; Krawczyk, Charlotte M.

FG Angewandte Geophysik

Faults and fractures represent unique features of the solid Earth and are especially pervasive in the shallow crust. Aside from directly relating to crustal dynamics and the systematic assessment of associated risk, fault and fracture networks enable the efficient migration of fluids and therefore have a direct impact on concrete topics relevant to society, including climate-change-mitigating measures like CO2 sequestration or geothermal exploration and production. Due to their small-scale complexity, fault zones and fracture networks are typically poorly resolved, and their presence can often only be inferred indirectly in seismic and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) subsurface reconstructions. We suggest a largely data-driven framework for the direct imaging of these features by making use of the faint and still often underexplored diffracted portion of the wave field. Finding inspiration in the fields of optics and visual perception, we introduce two different conceptual pathways for coherent diffraction imaging and discuss respective advantages and disadvantages in different contexts of application. At the heart of both of these strategies lies the assessment of data coherence, for which a range of quantitative measures is introduced. To illustrate the versatility and effectiveness of the approach for high-resolution geophysical imaging, several seismic and GPR field data examples are presented, in which the diffracted wave field sheds new light on crustal features like fluvial channels, erosional surfaces, and intricate fault and fracture networks on land and in the marine environment.