Spectral-element simulations of global seismic wave propagation - I. Validation

Dimitri Komatitsch, Jeroen Tromp

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728 Scopus citations


We use a spectral-element method to simulate seismic wave propagation throughout the entire globe. The method is based upon a weak formulation of the equations of motion and combines the flexibility of a finite-element method with the accuracy of a global pseudospectral method. The finite-element mesh honours all first-and second-order discontinuities in the earth model. To maintain a relatively constant resolution throughout the model in terms of the number of grid points per wavelength, the size of the elements is increased with depth in a conforming fashion, thus retaining a diagonal mass matrix. In the Earth's mantle and inner core we solve the wave equation in terms of displacement, whereas in the liquid outer core we use a formulation based upon a scalar potential. The three domains are matched at the inner core and core-mantle boundaries, honouring the continuity of traction and the normal component of velocity. The effects of attenuation and anisotropy are fully incorporated. The method is implemented on a parallel computer using a message passing technique. We benchmark spectral-element synthetic seismograms against normal-mode synthetics for a spherically symmetric reference model. The two methods are in excellent agreement for all body-and surface-wave arrivals with periods greater than about 20 s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)390-412
Number of pages23
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


  • Body waves
  • Elastodynamics
  • Global seismology
  • Numerical techniques
  • Seismic wave propagation
  • Surface waves


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