Detailed geologic cross sections, augmented by laboratory calibration of lithology and acoustic impedance, have been used to produce synthetic reflection seismic sections of a carbonate foreslope-to-basin transition. Two areas from the Picco di Vallandro region of the Dolomite Alps were modeled: a progradational section and a retrogradational (backstepping) section. The resulting models show how these complex areas of strata interfingering might be displayed on conventional reflection seismic lines. In the area of progradation, rapid stratigraphic thinning below seismic detectibility, coupled with abrupt impedance changes, produces a reflection discontinuity between steeply dipping reflections of the foreslope and gently dipping parallel reflections of the basin section. This apparent downlap surface marks the toe-of-slope for successive clinoforms but does not correspond to a discrete stratigraphic surface. In the backstepping example, similar stratigraphic thinning and impedance changes create an apparent onlap surface. Wavelet interference causes complications in both examples. These models indicate how stratigraphic complexity can be simplified by the seismic reflection process and suggest that caution should be exercised when using seismic data to construct general models in areas of complex depositional geometries and rapidly changing facies.

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