Finite-difference methods for modeling seismic waves are known to be inaccurate when including a realistic topography, due to the large dispersion errors that appear in the modelled surface waves and the scattering introduced by the staircase approximation to the topography. As a consequence, alternatives to finite-difference methods have been proposed to circumvent these issues. We present a new numerical scheme for 3D elastic wave propagation in the presence of strong topography. This finite-difference scheme is based upon a staggered grid of the Lebedev type, or fully staggered grid (FSG). It uses a grid deformation strategy to make a regular Cartesian grid conform to a topographic surface. In addition, the scheme uses a mimetic approach to accurately solve the free-surface condition and hence allows for a less restrictive grid spacing criterion in the computations. The scheme can use high-order operators for the spatial derivatives and obtain low-dispersion results with as few as six points per minimum wavelength. A series of tests in 2D and 3D scenarios, in which our results are compared to analytical and numerical solutions obtained with other numerical approaches, validate the accuracy of our scheme. The resulting FSG mimetic scheme allows for accurate and efficient seismic wave modelling in the presence of very rough topographies with the advantage of using a structured staggered grid.

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