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Solid Earth An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 09 May 2019

Research article | 09 May 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Solid Earth (SE).

Fault interpretation in a vertically exaggerated seismic section: evidence of conceptual model uncertainty and anchoring

Juan Alcalde1,2, Clare E. Bond2, Gareth Johnson3, Armelle Kloppenburg4, Oriol Ferrer5, Rebecca Bell6, and Puy Ayarza7 Juan Alcalde et al.
  • 1Department of Structure and Dynamics of the Earth, Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera, ICTJA-CSIC, Lluis Sole i Sabaris s/n, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
  • 2Department of Geology and Petroleum Geology, School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 3UE, UK
  • 3Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering,University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, G1 1XZ, UK
  • 44DGeo, Daal en Bergselaan 80, 2565 AH The Hague, the Netherlands
  • 5Institut de Recerca Geomodels, Departament de Dinàmica de la Terra i de l'Oceà, Facultat de Ciències de la Terra, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, c/ Martí i Franquès s/n., 08028, Spain
  • 6Basins Research Group (BRG), Department of Earth Science & Engineering, Imperial College, Prince Consort Road, London, SW7 2BP, UK
  • 7Department of Geology, University of Salamanca, 37008 Salamanca, Spain

Abstract. The use of conceptual models is essential in the interpretation of reflection seismic data. It allows interpreters to make geological sense of seismic data which carries inherent uncertainty. However, conceptual models can create powerful anchors that prevent interpreters from reassessing and adapting their interpretations as part of the interpretation process, which can subsequently lead to flawed or erroneous outcomes. It is therefore critical to understand how conceptual models are generated and applied to reduce unwanted effects in interpretation results. Here we have tested how interpretation of vertically exaggerated seismic data influenced the creation and adoption of the conceptual models of 160 participants in a paper-based interpretation experiment. Participants were asked to interpret a series of faults and a horizon, off-set by those faults, in a seismic section. The seismic section was randomly presented to the participants with different horizontal-vertical exaggeration (1 : 4 or 1 : 2). Statistical analysis of the results indicates that early anchoring to specific conceptual models had the most impact on interpretation outcome; with the degree of vertical exaggeration having a subdued influence. Three different conceptual models were adopted by participants, constrained by initial observations of the seismic data. Interpreted fault dip angles show no evidence of other constraint (e.g. from the application of accepted fault dip models). Our results provide evidence of biases in interpretation of uncertain geological and geophysical data, including the use of heuristics to form initial conceptual models and anchoring to these models, confirming the need for increased understanding and mitigation of these biases to improve interpretation outcomes.

Juan Alcalde et al.
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Juan Alcalde et al.
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