Seismic site characterization with shear wave (SH) reflection and refraction methods

James A. Hunter, Heather L. Crow, William J. Stephenson, André J.M. Pugin, Robert A. Williams, James B. Harris, Jack K. Odum, Edward W. Woolery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Reflection and critically refracted seismic methods use traveltime measurements of body waves propagating between a source and a series of receivers on the ground surface to calculate subsurface velocities. Body wave energy is refracted or reflected at boundaries where there is a change in seismic impedance, defined as the product of material density and seismic velocity. This article provides practical guidance on the use of horizontally propagating shear wave (SH-wave) refraction and reflection methods to determine shear wave velocity as a function of depth for near-surface seismic site characterizations. Method principles and the current state of engineering practice are reviewed, along with discussions of limitations and uncertainty assessments. Typical data collection procedures are described using basic survey equipment, along with information on more advanced applications and emerging technologies. Eight case studies provide examples of the techniques in real-world seismic site characterizations performed in a variety of geological settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631-652
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Seismology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply.


  • COSMOS guidelines
  • Seismic hazard
  • Seismic reflection
  • Seismic refraction
  • Seismic site characterization
  • Shear wave velocity
  • Vs30

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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