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The extraction of the Green's function by cross correlation of waves recorded at two receivers nowadays finds much application. We show that for an arbitrary small scatterer, the cross terms of scattered waves give an unphysical wave with an arrival time that is independent of the source position. This constitutes an apparent inconsistency because theory predicts that such spurious arrivals do not arise, after integration over a complete source aperture. This puzzling inconsistency can be resolved for an arbitrary scatterer by integrating the contribution of all sources in the stationary phase approximation to show that the stationary phase contributions to the source integral cancel the spurious arrival by virtue of the generalized optical theorem. This work constitutes an alternative derivation of this theorem. When the source aperture is incomplete, the spurious arrival is not canceled and could be misinterpreted to be part of the Green's function. We give an example of how spurious arrivals provide information about the medium complementary to that given by the direct and scattered waves; the spurious waves can thus potentially be used to better constrain the medium.

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Copyright (2009) by the American Physical Society. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.78.036606