Karstified areas are known to be difficult ground for seismic exploration. We conducted a combined numerical-modeling and field-experiment study with the objectives to study the impact of karst on seismic wave propagation and to advance geophysical characterization of karst with seismic as well as non-seismic methods (electric and electromagnetic techniques). Finite-difference simulations using models with realistic topography illustrate the pronounced impact of topographic variations in high-velocity carbonate-bedrock environments on the scattered surface/guided waves. Wavefield complexities such as strong lateral changes in the strength of surface/guided waves, which were observed in a Vibroseis gather from a karst terrain in the Middle East, were also evident in our data recorded in Switzerland. In the latter case, amplifications of surface/guided waves could be correlated with low-velocity zones, which are probably due to more intensively karstified zones. Our study demonstrates that because of the strong heterogeneity of karst terrains, dense sampling is required to properly comprehend and disentangle the observed wavefield. Furthermore, we observed in our field study that the electrical-resistivity models correlate more closely with the mapped lithology, whereas karstification seems to more strongly affect the P-wave velocity models.


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