We present a theory for wave-equation inversion of Love-wave dispersion curves, in which the misfit function is the sum of the squared differences between the wavenumbers along the predicted and observed dispersion curves. Similar to inversion of Rayleigh-wave dispersion curves, the complicated Love-wave arrivals in traces are skeletonized as simpler data, namely, the picked dispersion curves in the (kx,ω) domain. Numerical solutions to the SH-wave equation and an iterative optimization method are then used to invert these dispersion curves for the S-wave velocity model. This procedure, denoted as wave-equation dispersion inversion of Love waves (LWD), does not require the assumption of a layered model or smooth velocity variations, and it is less prone to the cycle-skipping problems of full-waveform inversion. We demonstrate with synthetic and field data examples that LWD can accurately reconstruct the S-wave velocity distribution in a laterally heterogeneous medium. Compared with Rayleigh waves, inversion of the Love-wave dispersion curves empirically exhibits better convergence properties because they are completely insensitive to the P-velocity variations. In addition, Love-wave dispersion curves for our examples are simpler than those for Rayleigh waves, and they are easier to pick in our field data with a low signal-to-noise ratio.

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