Foundations for a multiscale collaborative Earth model

M. Afanasiev, Daniel Peter, K. Sager, S. Simut, L. Ermert, L. Krischer, A. Fichtner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


We present a computational framework for the assimilation of local to global seismic data into a consistent model describing Earth structure on all seismically accessible scales. This Collaborative Seismic Earth Model (CSEM) is designed to meet the following requirements: (i) Flexible geometric parametrization, capable of capturing topography and bathymetry, as well as all aspects of potentially resolvable structure, including small-scale heterogeneities and deformations of internal discontinuities. (ii) Independence of any particular wave equation solver, in order to enable the combination of inversion techniques suitable for different types of seismic data. (iii) Physical parametrization that allows for full anisotropy and for variations in attenuation and density. While not all of these parameters are always resolvable, the assimilation of data that constrain any parameter subset should be possible. (iv) Ability to accommodate successive refinements through the incorporation of updates on any scale as new data or inversion techniques become available. (v) Enable collaborative Earth model construction. The structure of the initial CSEM is represented on a variable-resolution tetrahedral mesh. It is assembled from a long-wavelength 3-D global model into which several regional-scale tomographies are embedded. We illustrate the CSEM workflow of successive updating with two examples from Japan and the Western Mediterranean, where we constrain smaller scale structure using full-waveform inversion. Furthermore, we demonstrate the ability of the CSEM to act as a vehicle for the combination of different tomographic techniques with a joint full-waveform and traveltime ray tomography of Europe. This combination broadens the exploitable frequency range of the individual techniques, thereby improving resolution. We perform two iterations of a whole-Earth full-waveform inversion using a long-period reference data set from 225 globally recorded earthquakes. At this early stage of the CSEM development, the broad global updates mostly act to remove artefacts from the assembly of the initial CSEM. During the future evolution of the CSEM, the reference data set will be used to account for the influence of small-scale refinements on large-scale global structure. The CSEM as a computational framework is intended to help bridging the gap between local, regional and global tomography, and to contribute to the development of a global multiscale Earth model. While the current construction serves as a first proof of concept, future refinements and additions will require community involvement, which is welcome at this stage already.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-58
Number of pages20
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 11 2015


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