Spectral-element simulations of wave propagation in porous media

Christina Morency, Jeroen Tromp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


We present a derivation of the equations describing wave propagation in porous media based upon an averaging technique which accommodates the transition from the microscopic to the macroscopic scale. We demonstrate that the governing macroscopic equations determined by Biot remain valid for media with gradients in porosity. In such media, the well-known expression for the change in porosity, or the change in the fluid content of the pores, acquires two extra terms involving the porosity gradient. One fundamental result of Biot's theory is the prediction of a second compressional wave, often referred to as 'type II' or 'Biot's slow compressional wave', in addition to the classical fast compressional and shear waves. We present a numerical implementation of the Biot equations for 2-D problems based upon the spectral-element method (SEM) that clearly illustrates the existence of these three types of waves as well as their interactions at discontinuities. As in the elastic and acoustic cases, poroelastic wave propagation based upon the SEM involves a diagonal mass matrix, which leads to explicit time integration schemes that are well suited to simulations on parallel computers. Effects associated with physical dispersion and attenuation and frequency-dependent viscous resistance are accommodated based upon a memory variable approach. We perform various benchmarks involving poroelastic wave propagation and acoustic-poroelastic and poroelastic-poroelastic discontinuities, and we discuss the boundary conditions used to deal with these discontinuities based upon domain decomposition. We show potential applications of the method related to wave propagation in compacted sediments, as one encounters in the petroleum industry, and to detect the seismic signature of buried landmines and unexploded ordnance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-345
Number of pages45
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


  • Computational seismology
  • Theoretical seismology
  • Wave propagation


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