SurfSeis Overview

The first version of the SurfSeis software (v. 1.0) was released in 2000 for the application of the multichannel analysis of surface waves (MASW) method on seismic data. Developed at the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS), the MASW method consists of four main components (Miller et al., 1999): roll-along data acquisition, dispersion-curve imaging (Song et al., 1989; Park et al., 1998; Xia et al., 2007; Luo et al., 2009), dispersion-curve inversion to obtain a 1-D shear-wave velocity (Vs) profile (Xia et al., 1999), and assembling multiple 1-D results into 2-D or 3-D images (Miller et al., 1999; Miller et al., 2003) using interpolation algorithms (Matheron, 1967; Olea, 1974).

Initially the MASW method was developed for data acquired using active seismic sources, a.k.a. "Active MASW" (Miller et al., 1999; Park et al., 1999). The same technique was later extended to application on seismic data from passive sources, a.k.a. "Passive MASW" (Park et al., 2004; Park et al., 2005; Park and Miller, 2008). The next versions of the software--SurfSeis 2, 3, and 4--have included new features that take into account new research and methodological developments, as well as users' demands for more options and improved user interface.

The main set of manuals distributed with the software was developed for SurfSeis version 1.5. The manuals for the following versions focus only on the new developments. The manual for SurfSeis 2 (Manual20.pdf) has been prepared mainly to explain the possibilities of using the passive MASW approach, forward dispersion-curve modeling (dispersion-curve values estimations using a 1-D velocity model) and display on dispersion-curve images (a.k.a., Overtone images), and random Monte Carlo inversion on dispersion-curve images. The SurfSeis 2 manual can serve as a stand-alone manual for both active and passive MASW methods for those who have previous experience in seismic data acquisition and data processing in either body- or surface-wave methods. The manual for SurfSeis 3 (Manual3_05.pdf) provides information on how to pick and invert higher modes of the Rayleigh surface wave (in addition to the conventional fundamental-mode use), discusses the new menu system developed to provide an alternate friendly access to SurfSeis' processes (in addition to the previously existing button-driven interface), and informs about the new software licensing/protection method using a USB key (a.k.a., hardware key, dongle, etc.). The manual for SurfSeis 4 (SurfSeis4UserManual.pdf) talks about the next set of newly developed features designed to provide more tools that can contribute to a higher quality of surface-wave analysis, such as sliding-window passive-data dispersion-curve imaging, flexible a-priori initial-model parameters input (i.e., compressional velocity (Vp), Poisson's ratio, and density), ongoing-inversion 2-D monitoring, etc. As well, the v4 manual demonstrates the sharper dispersion-curve imaging abilities when using the high-resolution linear radon transform (HRLRT) (Luo et al., 2009), which is optionally available in SurfSeis 4.2.

Starting from SurfSeis v. 2, there have been three possibilities for MASW seismic-data acquisition:

  1. Active,
  2. Passive Remote (using 2-D receiver arrays), and
  3. Passive Roadside (using 1-D receiver arrays) MASW methods (Figure 1).

The active method was introduced in the first version of SurfSeis. It is the conventional mode of survey using an active seismic source (e.g., a sledge hammer, weight drop, charges, etc.), a linear receiver array, and collecting data in a roll-along mode. When there are more geophones available, it might be more efficient to collect data using a relatively larger fixed spread (Miller et al., 2003) from which a smaller and optimized-size spread can be extracted emulating a roll-along acquisition design.

The other two passive methods utilize surface waves generated from ambient cultural (and natural) activities such as traffic (or thunder, tidal motion, atmospheric pressure change, etc.). The Passive Remote method (Park et al., 2004; Park et al., 2005) employs a two-dimensional (2-D) receiver array such as a cross or circular layout to record passive surface waves. This results in the most accurate evaluation of shear-wave velocity at the expense of more intensive field operations and the burden of securing a wide open space for the array. This can be a good choice when relatively regional one-dimensional (1-D) Vs profiling is needed. The Passive Roadside MASW method (Park and Miller, 2008) adopts the conventional linear (i.e., horizontal 1-D) receiver array and tries mainly to utilize those surface waves generated from local traffic. It tries to overcome limitations with the passive remote method--such as difficulty in securing a spacious area and inconvenience in field operations--by sacrificing the accuracy (usually less than 10%) of the Vs evaluation. With this method, the array can be set along the sidewalk or the shoulder of a road and the survey can continue in a roll-along mode for the purpose of 2-D Vs profiling. Using a land streamer for the array can improve the survey speed by as much as a few orders of magnitude. In addition, an active impact (e.g., by using a sledge hammer) can be applied at one end of the array to trigger a long (e.g., 30 sec) record of data. This can result in the combined active-passive analysis of surface waves for the purpose of obtaining both shallow (e.g., 1-20 m) and deep (e.g., 20-100 m) Vs information simultaneously. A more detailed description of each method can be found in the previously cited references. Field procedures for both passive and active methods have been summarized in the SurfSeis 2 manual), excerpts from which follow:

Data processing steps are explained by using the sample data sets stored in the SurfSeis "...\SampleData\" sub-folder. All acquisition parameters for the sample data sets are listed in Table 1.

Figure 1a--Active MASW method. More information is available on "Active MASW."

Diagram shows use of a sledge hammer as a source; geophones in linear array.

Figure 1b--Passive Remote MASW method. More information is available on "Passive Remote MASW."

Diagram shows receivers placed in a circular array near passive source of a busy road.

Figure 1c--Passive Roadside MASW method. More information is available on "Passive Roadside MASW."

Diagram shows receivers placed in a linear array near passive source of a busy road; an additional active source (hammer) can be used to trigger recording.

Table 1--Summary of sample data set parameters.

Survey Type Active MASW Passive Remote MASW Passive Remote MASW Passive Roadside MASW
File Name(s) "1011.dat"-"1022.dat" "Passive-Cross.dat" "Passive-Circular.dat" "4000.dat"-"4009.dat"
Folder "...\Active\" "...\PassiveRemote\" "...\PassiveRemote\" "...\PassiveRoadside\"
Survey Purpose 2-D Vs Profiling 1-D Vs Profiling 1-D Vs Profiling 2-D Vs Profiling
Data Format SEG-2 KGS KGS SEG-2
Acquisition 24 channel 48 channel 24 channel 48 channel
Source 20-lb Hammer Traffic Traffic 12-lb Hammer/Traffic
(spike coupling)
(spike coupling)
(spike coupling)
(land streamer
with 30 takeouts)
Receiver Array Linear (roll along) Cross (x-y) Circular Linear(roll along )
Array Dimension (D) 23 m 115 m 115 m 35 m
Receiver Spacing (dx) 1.22 m 5 m 15 m 1.2 m
Source Offset (x1) 1.22 m N/A N/A 4.8 m
Receiver Array Move 1 dx (1.22 m) 0 0 4 dx (4.8 m)
Sampling Interval (dt) 1 ms 4 ms 4 ms 4 ms
Recording Time (T) 2 sec 20 sec 120 sec 120 sec
Record Numbers 1011-1022 2000-2009 3000-3009 4000-4009

A summary of the entire procedure with a MASW method (active or passive) is displayed in the flowchart in Figure 2. Major changes and new features with this version are summarized as follows:

  1. Modules to process passive surface waves have been added in addition to the previously existing active module (Figure 1). Two different types of passive surveys are available: one, called the passive remote MASW method, uses a two-dimensional (2-D) receiver array and the other, called the passive roadside MASW method, uses the conventional 1-D linear array.
  2. The way dispersion analysis is executed has been changed so that the previous sequence of 'Preprocess-->Overtone-->Run-->Save' has been divided into two separate steps: (1) generation of dispersion image (called overtone, OT) data and (2) mouse-aided extraction of the dispersion curve from the image. The previous sequence, however, can still be accessed by right-clicking (instead of normal clicking) the 'Dispersion' button in the analysis menu when importing an input seismic file.
  3. A new mode of inversion has been added. This is a general Monte-Carlo method applied directly to the dispersion image (instead of the dispersion curve), seeking the best-matching solution through a random search. With this process, up to four modes of dispersion can be accounted for and all the parameters in a 5-layer earth model can be manually changed, if desired, to compare theoretical curve(s) with dispersion trend(s) in the background image.

Most (if not all) of the bugs existing in previous versions of SurfSeis have been fixed, thanks to the comments and reports from many practitioners who used SurfSeis to conduct the MASW method and who were very patient and always willing to help this quite new geophysical method still in its infancy evolve into a better form. We researchers at KGS sincerely appreciate your patience and assistance.

Figure 2--Flow chart of MASW processing steps.

Seven-step flow chart.

Data Processing

Step 1: Format (conversion from SEG-2 to KGS format)

Step 2: Field Geometry Encoding

Two images from software where field geometry is added.

Step 3: Generation of Dispersion Image (called overtone) Data

Step 4: Extraction of Dispersion Curve(s)

Step 5: Inversion of Curves for 2-D Vs Profile (Figure 5)

SurfSeis 2.0 Processing Steps

Field Setup (Active Survey)

Active Data Set Acquired in Roll-Along Mode

Encoding Field Geometry

Program dialog box--Encoding Field Geometry.

Source-receiver Station Table after Encoding

Program dialog box--Source-receiver Station Table after Encoding.

Field Setup (Passive Remote Survey)

X-Y Coordinate Setup for Each Receiver by Click and Drag

24-Channel Circular Array (After Completion of Setup)

Program dialog box--24-Channel Circular Array.

48-Channel Cross Array (Early Stage of Setup)

Program dialog box--48-Channel Cross Array.

Field Setup (Passive Roadside Survey)

Passive Roadside Data Set Acquired in Roll-Along Mode

Encoding Field Geometry

Program dialog box--Encoding Field Geometry.

Source-receiver Station Table after Encoding

Program dialog box--Source-receiver Station Table after Encoding.

Dispersion Image Generation

Generation by 2-D Wavefield Transformation

Program dialog box--Generation by 2-D Wavefield Transformation.

Controllable Processing Parameters

Active (A) and Passive (P)

Program dialog box--Active (A) and Passive (P).

Passive (P) Only

Program dialog box--Passive (P) only.

Active (A) and Passive (P)

Program dialog box--Active (A) and Passive (P).

Active (A) and Passive (P)

Program dialog box--Active (A) and Passive (P).

Dispersion Image

From Active Data

Program dialog box--From Active Data.

From Passive Remote Data

Program dialog box--From Passive Remote Data.

Azimuth Information of Passive Remote Data

Program dialog box--Azimuth Information.

Dispersion Curve Extraction

Setting Bounds by Mouse for Phase Velocity and Frequency Ranges

Program dialog box--Setting Bounds.

Extracting and Editing Dispersion Curve

Program dialog box--Dispersion Curve.

Controllable Parameters

Program dialog box--Dispersion Curve.

Program dialog box--Dispersion Curve.

Inversion of Extracted Curves

Deterministic Inversion* of Dispersion Curves

*If all extracted dispersion-curves are of the fundamental mode of the Rayleigh wave only, this is the fastest, simplest, and most researched inversion approach to take. When using dispersion curves that have more than one modes (e.g., fundamental mode and one or more higher modes) possible inversion difficulties may arise (i.e., poor fit between observed and calculated curves, high RMS error) as a result of inaccurate mode interpretation. (Ivanov et al., 2010)

Program dialog box--Full Automatic Processing.

2-D Vs Profile from Inversion

Program dialog box--Profile from Inversion.

Modeling and Random Inversion on dispersion curve images

This tool allows the user to manually change model parameters, calculate up to 4 modes of the Rayleigh wave, and plot them on a dispersion-curve image for comparison.

Program dialog box--Multi-modal Forward Modeling.

Automatic Inversion by Monte-Carlo Approach for 2-D Vs Profile

Program dialog box--Automatic Inversion by Monte-Carlo Approach.

Random Inversion (Controls)

Monte-Carlo (a random) type of inversion can be applied by randomly changing the model parameters, calculating dispersion-curve points, and comparing them with the amplitudes on the dispersion-curve image. This approach can be very time consuming but it can be a useful research tool.

Note that different models can calculate sets of dispersion curve points from different modes that fit equally well the dispersion-curve image. Then mode interpretation can be of significance when choosing the solution.

As well, when performing modeling any type of inversion bear in mind that

  1. Dispersion-curve images can be different depending
    1. on the source offset and spread size,
    2. dispersion-curve-imaging algorithm and parameters.
  2. The use of HRLRT for dispersion curve imaging can be very useful for separating different modes, and understanding the possibilities for interpreting different trends on the dispersion- curve image (Ivanov et al., 2010).

Forward Modeling Portion

Program dialog box--Forward Modeling Portion.

Inversion Portion

Program dialog box--Inversion Portion.

Combining Active and Passive Dispersion

To Increase Frequency (Depth) Range...

Program dialog box--Combining Active and Passive Dispersion.

To Help Modal Identification...

Program dialog box--Combining Active and Passive Dispersion.

Opening an Active (or Passive) Image and then Passive (or Active) Image to Combine Together

Program dialog box--Combining Active and Passive Dispersion.


Ivanov, J., R. D. Miller, and G. Tsoflias, 2008, Some Practical Aspects of MASW Analysis and Processing: Symposium on the Application of Geophysics to Engineering and Environmental Problems, 21, 1186-1198.

Ivanov, J., R. D. Miller, J. Xia, and S. Peterie, 2010, Multi-mode inversion of multi-channel analysis of surface waves (MASW) dispersion curves and high-resolution linear radon transform (HRLRT): 80th Annual International Meeting, SEG, Technical Program Expanded Abstracts, 29, 1902-1907.

Luo, Y. H., J. H. Xia, R. D. Miller, Y. X. Xu, J. P. Liu, and Q. S. Liu, 2009, Rayleigh-wave mode separation by high-resolution linear Radon transform: Geophysical Journal International, 179, 254-264.

Matheron, G., 1967, Kriging or Polynomial Interpolation Procedures--a Contribution to Polemics in Mathematical Geology: Canadian Mining and Metallurgical Bulletin, v. 60, no. 665, p. 33-58.

Miller, R. D., T. S. Anderson, J. Ivanov, J. C. Davis, R. Olea, C. Park, D. W. Steeples, M. L. Moran, and J. Xia, 2003, 3‐D characterization of seismic properties at the smart weapons test range, YPG: 73rd Annual International Meeting, SEG, Technical Program Expanded Abstracts, 22, 1195-1198.

Miller, R. D., J. Xia, C. B. Park, and J. M. Ivanov, 1999, Multichannel analysis of surface waves to map bedrock: The Leading Edge, 18, 1392–1396.

Olea, R. A., 1974, Optimal Contour Mapping Using Universal Kriging: Journal of Geophysical Research, 79, 695-702.

Park, C. B., and R. D. Miller, 2008, Roadside passive multichannel analysis of surface waves (MASW): Journal of Environmental and Engineering Geophysics, 13, 1-11.

Park, C. B., R. D. Miller, D. Laflen, C. Neb, J. Ivanov, B. Bennett, and R. Huggins, 2004, Imaging dispersion curves of passive surface waves: 74th Annual International Meeting, SEG, Expanded Abstracts, 23, 1357-1360.

Park, C. B., R. D. Miller, N. Ryden, J. Xia, and J. Ivanov, 2005, Combined use of active and passive surface waves: Journal of Environmental and Engineering Geophysics, 10, 323-334.

Park, C. B., R. D. Miller, and J. Xia, 1998, Imaging dispersion curves of surface waves on multi-channel record 68th Annual International Meeting, SEG, Expanded Abstracts, 1377-1380.

Park, C. B., R. D. Miller, and J. H. Xia, 1999, Multichannel analysis of surface waves: Geophysics, 64, 800-808.

Song, Y. Y., J. P. Castagna, R. A. Black, and R. W. Knapp, 1989, Sensitivity of near‐surface shear‐wave velocity determination from rayleigh and love waves: 59th Annual International Meeting, SEG, Expanded Abstracts, 8, 509-512.

Xia, J. H., R. D. Miller, and C. B. Park, 1999, Estimation of near-surface shear-wave velocity by inversion of Rayleigh waves: Geophysics, 64, 691-700.

Xia, J. H., Y. X. Xu, and R. D. Miller, 2007, Generating an image of dispersive energy by frequency decomposition and slant stacking: Pure and Applied Geophysics, 164, 941-956.

About MASW...

MASW is the multichannel analysis of surface waves leading toward the analysis of shear wave velocities. More ...