Seismic Migration: An overview of depth imaging in exploration geophysics
John Etgen, Samuel H. Gray, Yu Zhang, 2010. "Seismic Migration: An overview of depth imaging in exploration geophysics", Geophysics Today: A Survey of the Field as the Journal Celebrates its 75th Anniversary, Sergey Fomel
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Prestack depth migration is the most glamorous step of seismic processing because it transforms mere data into an image, and that image is considered to be an accurate structural description of the earth. Thus, our expectations of its accuracy, robustness, and reliability are high. Amazingly, seismic migration usually delivers. The past few decades have seen migration move from its heuristic roots to mathematically sound techniques that, using relatively few assumptions, render accurate pictures of the interior of the earth. Interestingly, the earth and the subjects we want to image inside it are varied enough that, so far, no single migration technique has dominated practical application. All techniques continually improve and borrow from each other, so one technique may never dominate. Despite the progress in structural imaging, we have not reached the point where seismic images provide quantitatively accurate descriptions of rocks and fluids. Nor have we attained the goal of using migration as part of a purely computational process to determine subsurface velocity. In areas where images have the highest quality, we might be nearing those goals, collectively called inversion. Where data are more challenging, the goals seem elusive. We describe the progress made in depth migration to the present and the most significant barriers to attaining its inversion goals in the future. We also conjecture on progress likely to be made in the years ahead and on challenges that migration might not be able to meet.