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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Time-lapse monitoring of fluid-induced geophysical property variations within an unstable earthwork using P-wave refraction

  • Author(s): Bergamo, P
  • Dashwood, B
  • Uhlemann, S
  • Swift, R
  • Chambers, JE
  • Gunn, DA
  • Donohue, S
  • et al.

© The Authors. A significant portion of the UK's transportation system relies on a network of geotechnical earthworks (cuttings and embankments) that were constructed more than 100 years ago, whose stability is affected by the change in precipitation patterns experienced over the past few decades. The vulnerability of these structures requires a reliable, cost- and time-effective monitoring of their geomechanical condition. We have assessed the potential application of P-wave refraction for tracking the seasonal variations of seismic properties within an aged clay-filled railway embankment, located in southwest England. Seismic data were acquired repeatedly along the crest of the earthwork at regular time intervals, for a total period of 16 months. P-wave first-break times were picked from all available recorded traces, to obtain a set of hodocrones referenced to the same spatial locations, for various dates along the surveyed period of time. Traveltimes extracted from each acquisition were then compared to track the pattern of their temporal variability. The relevance of such variations over time was compared with the data experimental uncertainty. The multiple set of hodocrones was subsequently inverted using a tomographic approach, to retrieve a time-lapse model of VP for the embankment structure. To directly compare the reconstructed VP sections, identical initial models and spatial regularization were used for the inversion of all available data sets. A consistent temporal trend for P-wave traveltimes, and consequently for the reconstructed VP models, was identified. This pattern could be related to the seasonal distribution of precipitation and soil-water content measured on site.

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