Calibrating a Salt Water Intrusion Model with Time-Domain Electromagnetic Data

Daan Herckenrath, Nick Odlum, Vanessa Nenna, Rosemary Knight, Esben Auken, Peter Bauer-Gottwein

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Salt water intrusion models are commonly used to support groundwater resource management in coastal aquifers. Concentration data used for model calibration are often sparse and limited in spatial extent. With airborne and ground-based electromagnetic surveys, electrical resistivity models can be obtained to provide high-resolution three-dimensional models of subsurface resistivity variations that can be related to geology and salt concentrations on a regional scale. Several previous studies have calibrated salt water intrusion models with geophysical data, but are typically limited to the use of the inverted electrical resistivity models without considering the measured geophysical data directly. This induces a number of errors related to inconsistent scales between the geophysical and hydrologic models and the applied regularization constraints in the geophysical inversion. To overcome these errors, we perform a coupled hydrogeophysical inversion (CHI) in which we use a salt water intrusion model to interpret the geophysical data and guide the geophysical inversion. We refer to this methodology as a Coupled Hydrogeophysical Inversion-State (CHI-S), in which simulated salt concentrations are transformed to an electrical resistivity model, after which a geophysical forward response is calculated and compared with the measured geophysical data. This approach was applied for a field site in Santa Cruz County, California, where a time-domain electromagnetic (TDEM) dataset was collected. For this location, a simple two-dimensional cross-sectional salt water intrusion model was developed, for which we estimated five uniform aquifer properties, incorporating the porosity that was also part of the employed petrophysical relationship. In addition, one geophysical parameter was estimated. The six parameters could be resolved well by fitting more than 300 apparent resistivities that were comprised by the TDEM dataset. Except for three sounding locations, all the TDEM data could be fitted close to a root-mean-square error of 1. Possible explanations for the poor fit of these soundings are the assumption of spatial uniformity, fixed boundary conditions and the neglecting of 3D effects in the groundwater model and the TDEM forward responses. © 2012, The Author(s). Groundwater © 2012, National Ground Water Association.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalGround Water
    Issue number3
    Pages (from-to)385-397
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


    • Aquifers
    • Electric conductivity
    • Electromagnetism
    • Errors
    • Geophysics
    • Groundwater resources
    • Hydrogeology
    • Three dimensional


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