For complicated earth models, wave-equation–based refraction-traveltime tomography is more accurate than ray-based tomography but requires more computational effort. Most of the computational effort in traveltime tomography comes from computing traveltimes and their Fréchet derivatives, which for ray-based methods can be computed directly. However, in most wave-equation traveltime-tomography algorithms, the steepest descent direction of the objective function is computed by the backprojection algorithm, without computing a Fréchet derivative directly.

We propose a new wave-based refraction-traveltime–tomography procedure that computes Fréchet derivatives directly and efficiently. Our method involves solving a damped-wave equation using a frequency-domain, finite-element modeling algorithm at a single frequency and invoking the reciprocity theorem. A damping factor, which is commonly used to suppress wraparound effects in frequency-domain modeling, plays the role of suppressing multievent wavefields. By limiting the wavefield to a single first arrival, we are able to extract the first-arrival traveltime from the phase term without applying a time window. Computing the partial derivative of the damped wave-equation solution using the reciprocity theorem enables us to compute the Fréchet derivative of amplitude, as well as that of traveltime, with respect to subsurface parameters. Using the Marmousi-2 model, we demonstrate numerically that refraction traveltime tomography with large-offset data can be used to provide the smooth initial velocity model necessary for prestack depth migration.

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