ENIGMA fellow Lara Blazevic successfully defended her thesis “Monitoring spatio-temporal wate redistribution in the subsurface with seismic methods” on Friday 18th September 2020 virtually from Sorbonne University. Congrats!
The characterization and monitoring of subsurface water systems are fundamental to groundwater resources conservation and management. To this end, hydrogeophysics provides a suite of non-invasive methods to study the shallow subsurface environment and the processes occurring therein over multiple scales. Time-lapse hydrogeophysical applications are notably useful to monitor water dynamics and follow temporal variations in water content. Largely dominated by electrical and electromagnetic methods, these applications are being increasingly explored with seismic methods. The seismic signal is dependent on the mechanical properties of the medium which are in turn affected by changes in water content. Consequently, seismic responses are also influenced by hydrological properties and state variables. Nonetheless, complexities in describing the mechanical behavior of partially saturated shallow materials have limited the quantitative characterization of the subsurface and associated water dynamics by means of seismic methods. Here we investigate the evolution of seismic responses with varying water content in time-lapse field contexts, analyzing both data and inverted parameters, and compare the resulting trends with established petrophysical relationships. We show that seismic time-lapse inversions of P-wave refraction data and corresponding changes in wave propagation velocity enable the recognition of preferential water flow paths in the subsurface, highlighting the potential of seismic methods to monitor hydrological processes and unsaturated flow. Overall, qualitative agreements between seismic velocity trends and theoretical petrophysical relationships still eclipse accurate quantitative estimations of water content from inverted seismic parameters. We anticipate further time-lapse seismic field studies to help bridge the gap between qualitative and quantitative observations. In the wake of the recent advancements in seismic equipment and techniques, appropriate field-scale petrophysical relationships will play an important role in the development of seismic methods for hydrological applications.
More on Lara’s research project