A seismic attribute is a quantitative measure of a seismic characteristic of interest. Analysis of attributes has been integral to reflection seismic interpretation since the 1930s when geophysicists started to pick traveltimes to coherent reflections on seismic field records. There are now more than 50 distinct seismic attributes calculated from seismic data and applied to the interpretation of geologic structure, stratigraphy, and rock/pore fluid properties. The evolution of seismic attributes is closely linked to advances in computer technology. As examples, the advent of digital recording in the 1960s produced improved measurements of seismic amplitude and pointed out the correlation between hydrocarbon pore fluids and strong amplitudes (“bright spots”). The introduction of color printers in the early 1970s allowed color displays of reflection strength, frequency, phase, and interval velocity to be overlain routinely on black-and-white seismic records. Interpretation workstations in the 1980s provided interpreters with the ability to interact quickly with data to change scales and colors and to easily integrate seismic traces with other information such as well logs. Today, very powerful computer workstations capable of integrating large volumes of diverse data and calculating numerous seismic attributes are a routine tool used by seismic interpreters seeking geologic and reservoir engineering information from seismic data. In this review paper celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, we reconstruct the key historical events that have lead to modern seismic attribute analysis.

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