A macroscopic geological structure can geometrically map a local rock ­material anisotropy into a larger volume that may have different net anisotropic properties on a scale to which seismic waves respond. The bulk structure’s anisotropy intensity, symmetry type and orientation of symmetry axes will generally be different from the local rock; a typical crustal rock with material fabric showing slow-axis transverse isotropy can be converted, for example, into a bulk structure that is weaker fast-axis orthorhombic or lower symmetry. We define this modification as “structural geometric anisotropy” (SGA). The seismic anisotropy signals produced by this structure are influenced by the length scale of seismic waves: shorter wavelengths respond to each larger part of the structure (path integration) whereas longer wavelengths respond to just the bulk average of all parts (effective medium). We present a tensor formulation that under certain conditions can decompose an anisotropy-filled structure into its macroscale structural geometry separated from infilling rock types. When a single representative rock material can be substituted for ­local rocks with fabric, the orientation operators that describe the structure’s ­geometry can be separately volume averaged to produce a unique “structural geometry operator” that can then be used to define the equivalent structure’s effective medium. We illustrate these principles using common geometrical structures and show as an example the progressive modification of seismic anisotropy produced by cylindrical folding. Due to the widespread distribution of crustal tectonic structures, their effects on seismic anisotropy should be incorporated into interpretations of seismic anisotropy. The assumption of slow-axis transverse isotropy in crustal volumes is not always valid.

Gold Open Access: This paper is published under the terms of the CC-BY-NC license.

Supplementary data