Six books about seismic analysis

Last year, I did a round-up of six books about seismic interpretation. A raft of new geophysics books recently, mostly from Cambridge, prompts this look at six volumes on seismic analysis — the more quantitative side of interpretation. We seem to be a bit hopeless at full-blown book reviews, and I certainly haven't read all of these books from cover to cover, but I thought I could at least mention them, and give you my first impressions.

If you have read any of these books, I'd love to hear what you think of them! Please leave a comment. 

Observation: none of these volumes mention compressive sensing, borehole seismic, microseismic, tight gas, or source rock plays. So I guess we can look forward to another batch in a year or two, when Cambridge realizes that people will probably buy anything with 3 or more of those words in the title. Even at $75 a go.

Quantitative Seismic Interpretation

Per Avseth, Tapan Mukerji and Gary Mavko (2005). Cambridge University Press, 408 pages, ISBN 978-0-521-15135-1. List price USD 91, $81.90 at, £45.79 at

You have this book, right?

Every seismic interpreter that's thinking about rock properties, AVO, inversion, or anything beyond pure basin-scale geological interpretation needs this book. And the MATLAB scripts.

Rock Physics Handbook

Gary Mavko, Tapan Mukerji & Jack Dvorkin (2009). Cambridge University Press, 511 pages, ISBN 978-0-521-19910-0. List price USD 100, $92.41 at, £40.50 at

If QSI is the book for quantitative interpreters, this is the book for people helping those interpreters. It's the Aki & Richards of rock physics. So if you like sums, and QSI left you feeling unsatisifed, buy this too. It also has lots of MATLAB scripts.

Seismic Reflections of Rock Properties

Jack Dvorkin, Mario Gutierrez & Dario Grana (2014). Cambridge University Press, 365 pages, ISBN 978-0-521-89919-2. List price USD 75, $67.50 at, £40.50 at

This book seems to be a companion to The Rock Physics Handbook. It feels quite academic, though it doesn't contain too much maths. Instead, it's more like a systematic catalog of log models — exploring the full range of seismic responses to rock properies.

Practical Seismic Data Analysis

Hua-Wei Zhou (2014). Cambridge University Press, 496 pages, ISBN 978-0-521-19910-0. List price USD 75, $67.50 at, £40.50 at

Zhou is a professor at the University of Houston. His book leans towards imaging and velocity analysis — it's not really about interpretation. If you're into signal processing and tomography, this is the book for you. Mostly black and white, the book has lots of exercises (no solutions though).

Seismic Amplitude: An Interpreter's Handbook

Rob Simm & Mike Bacon (2014). Cambridge University Press, 279 pages, ISBN 978-1-107-01150-2 (hardback). List price USD 80, $72 at, £40.50 at

Simm is a legend in quantitative interpretation and the similarly lauded Bacon is at Ikon, the pre-eminent rock physics company. These guys know their stuff, and they've filled this superbly illustrated book with the essentials. It belongs on every interpreter's desk.

Seismic Data Analysis Techniques...

Enwenode Onajite (2013). Elsevier. 256 pages, ISBN 978-0124200234. List price USD 130, $113.40 at £74.91 at

This is the only book of the collection I don't have. From the preview I'd say it's aimed at undergraduates. It starts with a petroleum geology primer, then covers seismic acquisition, and seems to focus on processing, with a little on interpretation. The figures look rather weak, compared to the other books here. Not recommended, not at this price.

NOTE These prices are Amazon's discounted prices and are subject to change. The links contain a tag that gets us commission, but does not change the price to you. You can almost certainly buy these books elsewhere. 

2013 retrospective

It's almost the end of the year, so we ask for your indulgence as we take our traditional look back at some of the better bits of the blog from 2013. If you have favourite subjects, we always like feedback!

Most visits

Amazingly, nothing we can write seems to be able to topple Shale vs tight, which is one of the firsts posts I wrote on this blog. Most of that traffic is coming from Google search, of course. I'd like to tell you how many visits the posts get, but web stats are fairly random — this year we'll have had either 60,000 or 245,000 visits, depending on who you believe — very precise data! Anyway, here are the rest...

Most comments

We got our 1000th blog comment at the end of September (thanks Matteo!). Admittedly some of them were us, but hey, we like arbitrary milestones as much as the next person. Here are the most commented-on posts of the year:

Hackathon skull
Hackathon skull

Proud moments

Some posts don't necessarily win a lot of readers or get many comments, but they mark events that were important to us. A sort of public record. Our big events in 2013 were...

Our favourites

Of course we have our personal favourite posts too — pieces that were especially fun to put together, or that took an unusual amount of craft and perspiration to finish (or more likely a sound beating with a blunt instrument).



I won't go into reader demographics as they've not changed much since last year. One thing is interesting, though not very surprising — about 15% of visitors are now reading on mobile devices, compared to 10% in 2012 and 7% in 2011. The technology shift is amazing: in 2011 we had exactly 94 visits from readers on tablets — now we get about 20 tablet visits every day, mostly from iPads.

It only remains for me to say Thank You to our wonderful community of readers. We appreciate every one of you, and love getting email and comments more than is probably healthy. The last 3 years have been huge fun, and we can't wait for 2014. If you celebrate Christmas may it be merry — and we wish you all the best for the new year.

Review: First Steps in Seismic Interpretation

Thomas Martin is a first-year graduate student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He got bored of waiting for us to review the seismic interpretation books (we are tectonically slow sometimes) and offered to review some for us. Thank you, Thomas! He's just about to set off on a research cruise to the Canadian Arctic on USCGC Healy to collect CHIRP seismic reflection data and sediment cores.

Herron, D (2012). First Steps in Seismic Interpretation. Geophysical Monograph Series 16. Society of Exploration Geophysicists, Tulsa, OK. Print ISBN 978-156080280-8. Ebook DOI 10.1190/1.9781560802938. List price: USD62. Member price: USD49. Student price: USD39.20

As a graduate student, this book has become quite the resource for me. It gives a good handle on basic seismic properties, and provides a solid introduction. Some of the topics it covers are not typically discussed in a geoscience journal papers that use seismic reflection data (migration comes to mind). The table of contents gives an idea of the breadth:

  1. Introduction
  2. Seismic response
  3. Seismic attributes — including subsections on amplitude, coherence, and inversion
  4. Velocity — sonic logs, well velocity surveys, seismic velocities, anisotropy, and depth conversion
  5. Migration
  6. Resolution
  7. Correlation concepts — horizons and faults, multiples, pitfalls, automatic vs manual picking
  8. Correlation procedures — loop tying, jump correlations, visualization
  9. Data quality and management — keeping track of everything
  10. Other considerations — e.g. 4D seismic, uncertainty and risk, and ergonomics

One of the great things about this book is that it's designed to be light on math, so all levels of geoscientists can pick it up. I have found this book invaluable because it is a great bridge from the 'pure' geophysicist to the seismic interpreter, and can improve the dialogue between these two camps. Chapter 10 is 'leftover' subjects, but it is one of the most helpful in the book as it covers approximations, career development, and a fantastic section on time spent and value added.

The book covers a lot of ground but, with the book coming in at under 200 pages, nothing in detail — this is not meant to be the ultimate text for seismic interpretation. I think the book is a little light for nearly $40 plus shipping, however (student price; the list price is over $60). I would recommend it to graduate students or early career scientists with an interest in seismic data, across the full range of geoscience disciplines. The price for a student is high for a small paperback book under 200 pages, but the content is worth it.

If you liked this review please leave an encouraging comment for Thomas.

Six books about seismic interpretation

Last autumn Brian Romans asked about books on seismic interpretation. It made me realize two things: (1) there are loads of them out there, and (2) I hadn't read any of them. (I don't know what sort of light this confession casts on me as a seismic interpreter, but let's put that to one side for now.)

Here are the books I know about, in no particular order. Have I missed any? Let us know in the comments!

Introduction to Seismic Interpretation

Google Books

Bruce Hart, 2011, AAPG Discovery Series 16. Tulsa, USA: AAPG. List price USD 42.

This 'book' is a CD-based e-book, aimed at the new interpreter. Bruce is an interpreter geologist, so there's plenty of seismic stratigraphy.

A Petroleum Geologist's Guide to Seismic Reflection

William Ashcroft, 2011. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. List price USD 90.

I really, really like this book. It covers all the important topics and is not afraid to get quantitative — and it comes with a CD containing data and software to play with. 

Interpretation of Three-Dimensional Seismic Data

Alistair Brown, AAPG Memoir. Tulsa, USA: AAPG. List price USD 115.

This book is big! Many people think of it as 'the' book on interpretation. The images are rather dated—the first edition was in 1986—but the advice is solid.

First Steps in Seismic Interpretation

Google Books

Donald Herron, SEG. Tulsa, USA: SEG. List price USD 62.

This new book is tremendous, if a little pricey for its size. Don is a thoroughly geophysical interpreter with deep practical experience. A must-read for sub-salt pickers!

3D Seismic Interpretation

Bacon, Simm and Redshaw, 2003. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge. List price USD 80.

A nicely produced and comprehensive treatment with plenty of quantitative meat. Multi-author volumes seem a good idea for such a broad topic.

Elements of 3D Seismology

Chris Liner, 2004. Tulsa, USA: PennWell Publishing. List price USD 129.

Chris Liner's book and CD are not about seismic interpretation, but would make a good companion to any of the more geologically inclined books here. Fairly hardcore.

The rest and the next

Out-of-print and old books, or ones that are less particularly about seismic interpretation:

An exciting new addition will be the forthcoming book from Wiley by Duncan Irving, Richard Davies, Mads Huuse, Chris Jackson, Simon Stewart and Ralph Daber — Seismic Interpretation: A Practical Approach. Look out for that one in 2014.

Watch out for our book reviews on all these books in the coming weeks and months.

Review: The Wave Watcher's Companion


The Wave Watcher's Companion: From Ocean Waves to Light Waves via Shock Waves, Stadium Waves, and All the Rest of Life's Undulations
Gavin Pretor-Pinney, Perigee (USA), Bloomsbury (UK), July 2010, $22.95

This book was on my reading list, and then on my shelf, for ages. Now I wish I'd snapped it up and read it immediately. In my defence, the end of 2010 was a busy time for me, what with turning my career upside down and everything, but I'm sure there's a lesson there somewhere...

If you think of yourself as a geophysicist, stop reading this review and buy this book immediately. 

OK, now they've gone, we can look more closely. Gavin Pretor-Pinney is the chap behind The Cloud Appreciation Society, the author of The Cloudspotter's Guide, and co-creator of The Idler Magazine. He not a scientist, but a witty writer with a high curiosity index. The book reads like an extended blog post, or a chat in the pub. A really geeky chat. 

Geophysicists are naturally drawn to all things wavy, but the book touches on sedimentology too — from dunes to tsunamis to seiches. Indeed, the author prods at some interesting questions about what exactly waves are, and whether bedforms like dunes (right) qualify as waves or not. According to Andreas Baas, "it all depends on how loose is your definition of a wave." Pretor-Pinney likes to connect all possible dots, so he settles for a loose definition, backing it up with comparisons to tanks and traffic jams. 

The most eye-opening part for me was Chapter 6, The Fifth Wave, about shock waves. I never knew that there's a whole class of waves that don't obey the normal rules of wave motion: they don't obey the speed limits, they don't reflect or refract properly, and they can't even be bothered to interfere like normal (that is, linear) waves. Just one of those moments when you realize that everything you think you know is actually a gross simplification. I love those moments.

The book is a little light on explanation. Quite a few of the more interesting parts end a little abruptly with something like, "weird, huh?". But there are plenty of notes for keeners to follow up on, and the upside is the jaunty pace and adventurous mix of examples. This one goes on my 're-read some day' shelf. (I don't re-read books, but it's the thought that counts).

Figure excerpt from Pretor-Pinney's book, copyright of the author and Penguin Publishing USA. Considered fair use.