In this paper we investigate the origin and geologic significance of the closely spaced high-frequency subbottom acoustic reflectors characteristic of pelagic carbonates. A detailed survey was conducted of a small area in the equatorial Pacific with the Marine Physical Laboratory's Deep-Tow instrument package, providing high-resolution 4-kHz profiles and precise positioning of core samples. The cores were sampled at closely spaced intervals for sound velocity and saturated bulk density. Acoustic impedances were calculated, and a reflection coefficient log determined for the upper 10 m of the sediment column. The reflection coefficient log revealed no interfaces with large reflection coefficients that correlated with the reflectors seen on the Deep-Tow 4-kHz seismic profile. The calculated reflection coefficients were very low (typically 10−3–10−5) and varied about a wavelength that was on the order of the wavelength of the 4-kHz pulse, implying that interference plays a role in the composition of the seismic record. Convolving the outgoing 4-kHz pulse with the reflection coefficient log generated a synthetic seismogram that very closely resembled the 4-kHz reflection profile. Varying the frequency of the outgoing pulse changed the amplitude and position of the reflectors seen on the synthetic seismograms. Thus we conclude that the reflectors seen on the 4-kHz seismic profile were not caused by discrete geologic horizons but rather are the result of the interference of many small layers.

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth


American Geophysical Union Publications

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