We propose approximate ray-tracing equations for qP-waves propagating in smooth, inhomogeneous, weakly anisotropic media. For their derivation, we use perturbation theory, in which deviations of anisotropy from isotropy are considered to be the first-order quantities. The proposed ray-tracing equations and corresponding traveltimes are of the first order. Accuracy of the traveltimes can be increased by calculating a second-order correction along first-order rays.
The first-order ray-tracing equations for qP-waves propagating in a general weakly anisotropic medium depend on only 15 weak-anisotropy parameters (generalization of Thomsen's parameters). The equations are thus considerably simpler than the exact ray-tracing equations. For higher-symmetry anisotropic media the equations differ only slightly from equations for isotropic media. They can thus substitute for the traditional isotropic ray tracers used in seismic processing. For vanishing anisotropy, the first-order ray-tracing equations reduce to standard, exact ray-tracing equations for isotropic media. Numerical tests for configuration and models used in seismic prospecting indicate negligible dependence of accuracy of calculated traveltimes on inhomogeneity of the medium. For anisotropy of about 8%, considered in the examples presented, the relative errors of the traveltimes, including the second-order correction, are well under 0.05%; for anisotropy of about 20%, they do not exceed 0.3%.