Seismic refraction is a geophysical principle governed by Snell’s Law. Used in the fields of engineering geology, geotechnical engineering and exploration geophysics, seismic refraction traverses (seismic lines) are performed using a seismograph(s) and/or geophone(s), in an array and an energy source. The seismic refraction method utilizes the refraction of seismic waves on geologic layers and rock/soil units in order to characterize the subsurface geologic conditions and geologic structure.
The methods depend on the fact that seismic waves have differing velocities in different types of soil (or rock): in addition, the waves are refracted when they cross the boundary between different types (or conditions) of soil or rock. The methods enable the general soil types and the approximate depth to strata boundaries, or to bedrock, to be determined.