Estimates of the thickness variation in lateritic weathering profiles (LWPs) are important in tropical areas underlain by young basalt lavas like those found in Hawaii. Seismic shear-wave velocity data were obtained by a new application of multichannel analysis of surface waves (MASW) to map variations in the LWP and to derive the downward rate of advance of the weathering front in basaltic lavas. The MASW technique proved highly capable of imaging the internal structure and base of the critical zone, as confirmed by borehole data and direct field measurements. Profile thickness thus obtained, rapidly and without drilling, has applications to engineering and geochemical studies. The rate of advance of the weathering front derived from MASW in Oahu ranged from 0.010 m/ka to 0.026 m/ka in mesic zones (∼1500 mm/a rainfall), whereas an area with ∼800 mm/a revealed rates from 0.005 m/ka to 0.011 m/ka. These rates are comparable to those derived from recent solute-based mass balance studies of ground and surface water. Conventional P-wave seismic reflection did not perform as well for detecting boundaries due to a gradational seismic velocity structure within the weathering profile. Shear-wave velocity models showed internal variations that may be caused by textural differences in parental lava flows. Limitations in imaging depth were overcome by innovative experiment designs. Increasing source-receiver offsets and merging surface-wave dispersion curves allowed for a more objective derivation of velocity-frequency relations. Further improvements were made from a recently developed form of the combined active and passive source technique. These advances allowed for more detailed and deeper imaging of the subsurface with greater confidence. Velocity models derived from MASW can thus describe the LWP in terms of depth and variability in stiffness.
- Received 22 October 2014.
- Revision received 10 December 2014.
- Accepted 2 February 2015.
- © 2015 Geological Society of America