Seismic ray path variations in a 3D global velocity model

Dapeng Zhao, Jianshe Lei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


A three-dimensional (3D) ray tracing technique is used to investigate ray path variations of P, PcP, pP and PP phases in a global tomographic model with P wave velocity changing in three dimensions and with lateral depth variations of the Moho, 410 and 660 km discontinuities. The results show that ray paths in the 3D velocity model deviate considerably from those in the average 1D model. For a PcP wave in Western Pacific to East Asia where the high-velocity (1-2%) Pacific slab is subducting beneath the Eurasian continent, the ray path change amounts to 27 km. For a PcP ray in South Pacific where very slow (-2%) velocity anomalies (the Pacific superplume) exist in the whole mantle, the maximum ray path deviation amounts to 77 km. Ray paths of other phases (P, pP, PP) are also displaced by tens of kilometers. Changes in travel time are as large as 3.9 s. These results suggest that although the maximal velocity anomalies of the global tomographic model are only 1-2%, rays passing through regions with strong lateral heterogeneity (in velocity and/or discontinuity topography) can have significant deviations from those in a 1D model because rays have very long trajectories in the global case. If the blocks or grid nodes adopted for inversion are relatively large (3-5°) and only a low-resolution 3D model is estimated, 1D ray tracing may be feasible. But if fine blocks or grid nodes are used to determine a high-resolution model, 3D ray tracing becomes necessary and important for the global tomography.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-166
Number of pages14
JournalPhysics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004 Mar 16


  • Mantle plumes
  • Ray tracing
  • Seismic discontinuity
  • Seismic tomography
  • Subducting slabs


Dive into the research topics of 'Seismic ray path variations in a 3D global velocity model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this