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Dispersion of interface waves in sediments with power-law shear speed profiles. I. Exact and approximate analytical results

O A Godin, D M Chapman
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 2001, 110 (4): 1890-907
11681370
In the upper tens of meters of ocean bottom, unconsolidated marine sediments consisting of clay, silt, or fine sand with high porosity are "almost incompressible" in the sense that the shear wave velocity is much smaller than the compressional wave velocity. The shear velocity has very large gradients close to the ocean floor leading to strong coupling of compressional and shear waves in such "soft" sediments. The weak compressibility opens an avenue for developing a theory of elastic wave propagation in continuously stratified soft sediments that fully accounts for the coupling. Elastic waves in soft sediments consist of "fast" waves propagating with velocities close to the compressional velocity and "slow" waves propagating with velocities on the order of the shear velocity. For the slow waves, the theory predicts the existence of surface waves at the ocean-sediment boundary. In the important special case of the power-law depth-dependence of shear rigidity, phase and group velocities of the interface waves are shown to scale as a certain power of frequency. An explicit, exact solution was obtained for the surface waves in sediments characterized by constant density and a linear increase of shear rigidity with depth, that is, for the case of shear speed proportional to the square root of the depth below the sediment-water interface. Asymptotic and perturbation techniques were used to extend the result to more general environments. Theoretical dispersion relations agreed well with numerical simulations and available experimental data and, as demonstrated in a companion paper [D. M. F. Chapman and O. A. Godin, J. Acoust. Soc. Am 110, 1908 (2001)] led to a simple and robust inversion of interface wave travel times for shear velocity profiles in the sediment.

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