Hydrogeophysical exploration of three-dimensional salinity anomalies with the time-domain electromagnetic method (TDEM)

Peter Bauer-Gottwein, Bibi Ruth Neuman Gondwe, Lars Christiansen, Daan Herckenrath, L. Kgotlhang, S. Zimmermann

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The time-domain electromagnetic method (TDEM) is widely used in groundwater exploration and geological mapping applications. TDEM measures subsurface electrical conductivity, which is strongly correlated with groundwater salinity. TDEM offers a cheap and non-invasive option for mapping saltwater intrusion and groundwater salinization. Traditionally, TDEM data is interpreted using one-dimensional layered-earth models of the subsurface. However, most saltwater intrusion and groundwater salinization phenomena are characterized by three-dimensional anomalies. To fully exploit the information content of TDEM data in this context, three-dimensional modeling of the TDEM response is required. We present a finite-element solution for three-dimensional forward modeling of TDEM responses from arbitrary subsurface electrical conductivity distributions. The solution is benchmarked against standard layered-earth models and previously published three-dimensional forward TDEM modeling results. Concentration outputs from a groundwater flow and salinity transport model are converted to subsurface electrical conductivity using standard petrophysical relationships. TDEM responses over the resulting subsurface electrical conductivity distribution are generated using the three-dimensional TDEM forward model. The parameters of the hydrodynamic model are constrained by matching observed and simulated TDEM responses. As an application example, a field dataset of ground-based TDEM data from an island in the Okavango Delta is presented. Evaporative salt enrichment causes a strong salinity anomaly under the island. We show that the TDEM field data cannot be interpreted in terms of standard one-dimensional layered-earth TDEM models, because of the strongly three-dimensional nature of the salinity anomaly. Three-dimensional interpretation of the field data allows for detailed and consistent mapping of this anomaly and makes better use of the information contained in the TDEM field dataset.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number3-4
Pages (from-to)318-329
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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