Velocity-model estimation with seismic reflection tomography is a nonlinear inverse problem. We present a new method for solving the nonlinear tomographic inverse problem using 3D prestack-depth-migrated reflections as the input data, i.e., our method requires that prestack depth migration (PSDM) be performed before tomography. The method is applicable to any type of seismic data acquisition that permits seismic imaging with Kirchhoff PSDM. A fundamental concept of the method is that we dissociate the possibly incorrect initial migration velocity model from the tomographic velocity model. We take the initial migration velocity model and the residual moveout in the associated PSDM common-image gathers as the reference data. This allows us to consider the migrated depth of the initial PSDM as the invariant observation for the tomographic inverse problem. We can therefore formulate the inverse problem within the general framework of inverse theory as a nonlinear least-squares data fitting between observed and modeled migrated depth. The modeled migrated depth is calculated by ray tracing in the tomographic model, followed by a finite-offset map migration in the initial migration model. The inverse problem is solved iteratively with a Gauss-Newton algorithm. We applied the method to a North Sea data set to build an anisotropic layer velocity model.

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