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AC resistivity sounding Niels Beie Christensen
Introduetion Electrical and electromagnetic geophysical methods have been among the most imporant ones for investigating the uppermost 100 me tres of the solid earth. For decades traditional resistivity methods using direct current (DC) have been in widespread use in Denmark as in most other parts of the world. Resistivity profiles and soundings have been used for gathering geological information in general, in prospecting for raw materiaIs, for hydrogeological surveys, and to solve foundation problems in engineering. DC resistivity sounding is a galvanic method, and the type of information obtained from application of th at method is determined by the behaviour of galvanic currents in the ground. This behaviour imposes inherent limitations on the scope for determination of earth parameters from the measurements. Among these limitations the equivalences of high-resistivity layers and low-resistivity layers are weil known. The high-resistivity equivalence, where neither the thickness nor the resistivity of a highly resistive layer embedded in better conducting surroundings may be determined but only the product of the two, is annoying in the context of many practical applications. In many cases highly resistive layers of dry sand and gravel are underlain by either wet and better conducting layers of sand and gravel or by low-resistivity c1ays. In these cases it becomes impossible to determine the amount of dry sand and gravel from DC resistivity soundings alone when prospecting for raw materiaIs, and in hydrogeological applications the depth to the water table is of ten undetermined. Furthermore, DC resistivity measurements do not all ow a determination of the anisotropy of the ground. Besides the galvanic method of DC resistivity sounding, there are a number of electromagnetic or inductive methods such as SLINGRAM and AMT (audiomagnetotelluric) with or without controlled source. The information gained from these methods is determined by the behaviour of induced currents in the ground and differs from the gal van ie information. Measurements with the inductive methods are strongly influenced by the presence of good conductors, while poor conductors are more or Iess invisible. The depth to a good conductor is usually accurately determined from inductive methods.
'Laboratory of Geophysics, Geological Institute, University of Aarhus, Finlandsgade 6, DK-8200 Aarhus N, Denmark.


Though the galvanic and inductive methods are of ten applied in different prospecting situations, they mayalso be combined in the same survey. In some instances the combined interpretation of galvanic and inductive measurements enables the high-resistivity equivalence of the DC resistivity sounding method to be resolved (Jupp & Vozoff 1975). The DC resistivity sounding method may be used to determine the thickness of the overburden overlying a high-resistivity layer, while an inductive method may be used todetermine the depth to the good conductor underlying the high-resistivity layer. Thus the thickness-and thereby also the resistivity-of the highresistivity layer may be determined from a combined use of galvanic and inductive measurements. The AC resistivity sounding method In the AC resistivity sounding method an alternating current (AC) souree is applied to a grounded e1ectrical dipole of finite length at a number of different frequencies, and the amplitude of the potential difference, tl.V, between the endpoints of the receiver dipole is measured. The method is thus a combined one. Galvanic current is put into the ground by the current electrodes and the use of AC gives an inductive contribution to the fields (Serensen et al. 1979, Serensen 1979, 1981, Christensen 1983, 1985). Analogous to DC resistivity sounding, the apparent resistivity is defined by




I tl. ~(f) I


where K(Y) is the same geometrical factor as would be used in the DC case, I is the amplitude of the galvanic current introduced at the electrodes, fis the frequency used, and Y is the transmitter-receiver separation. The phase of the potential difference is not measured. Response curves for electromagnetic methods over a homogeneous halfspace are normalized with respect to the induction parameter oxr y2 (w is the angular frequency and 0" the conductivity). The above definition of apparent resistivity has the implication that for low values of the induction parameter the apparent resistivity curve coincides with the DC curve, while for high values of the induction parameter the curves will be different. Thus the behaviour of the apparent resistivity curves for large values of Y will differ from the DC case. In analysing the data, we assume the earth model of Fig. 1 showing a horizontally stratified earth with

p7. 2. Coefficicnts of anisotropy are included in the model parameter space and a priori data . . The la west frequency of 76 Hz is chosen suffieiently high to avoid induced polarization effects and sufficiently low to be comparabIe to DC in most instances. Wynn and Zonge 1975. In principle any conventional De electrode layout can be used for AC soundings. The solution to the theoretieal problem of ea\culating eleetrie and magnetie fields from a grounded eleetrie dipale earrying alternating current has been given previously by several authors (Riordan and Sunde 1933. resulting in 'jumpy' apparent resistivity curves. homogcneous. and experiencc shows that there is usually a good signal-to-noise ratio at this frequency. Kauahikaua 1978). Distance OM = Y is taken as the abscissa of the following model responses and data.~-. The frequency 9765 Hz is about the highest which is practi- cally realizable in the field and thus contributes most of the inductive part of the sou ree field. but in praetice electtornagnetic coupling between the transmitter and receiver. The transmitter yields AC eurrent at a number of different frequeneies stepping up by factors of 2 in the range 1-40 kHz. In our approach to the numerical problem a modified digital filter theory has been developcd. respectively. Measurements are made with a density of 10 pcr decade in the interval 1. The half-Schlumberger electrode configuration. the vertical resistivity. whieh eliminates the need for integration of the response of thc infinitessimal eleetrie dipale (Serensen 1979. The souree and model contiguration. A microprocessor controls the measurements and calculates the mcan value and standard deviation of the apparent resistivity over a specified time window to provide automatic quality con trol of the measurements.. The field equipment consists of a transmitter unit and a receiver unit completely isolated from one another. The frequency 2441 Hz is a convenient intermcdiate value at which the inductive effect is approximately one quarter of that at 9765 Hz. The sinusoidal signal is governed by an oscillating erystal. NO 11. Analyses show that three frequencies give a better determination of the earth parameters than two. while one potenrial electrode is placed 'infinitely far away (in practiee 250-400 m) and the inner potential electrode is moved (Fig.4481FIRST BREAK VOL 7. which is a geometrieal effect independent of carth parameters. The transmitter is operated in a constant current mode with an output current normally between 30 and 200 mA into a souree dipale with a length typieally equal to 10 m. A and B are current electrodes. The inherent non-linearity of the problem is somewhat reduced by werking with the logarithm of the data values and the logarithm of the model parameters. 2). Data are stored on digital cassette tapes. yB M N Interpretation of the data is done by rneans of a computer program based on the well-known iterative leastsquares procedure. and tbc layer tbickncss of the ith layer. I. makes the popular Schlumberger and Wenner configurations unattractive.2441 and 9765 Hz. Christensen 1979).53 m (or more) and computations make exact account of the finite distance to the outermost potential electrode. Christensen 1983). are the horizontal resistivity. The met had is as fast and accurate as the digital filter met had for ealeulation of Hankel transfarms (Ghosh 1971. Three standard frequencies are used: 76.. NOVEMBER I"R" r. Mand Nare potential electredes. 10 n(10 co A o Fig. Dcy and Morrison 1973. In th is eonfiguration a eurrent dipale with a length of 10 m remains fixed during the sounding.26-199. Maximum voltage is 180 V rrns and maximum current is 1 A rms. transversely isotropie layers. Johansen and Serertsen 1979. x z d1 IABI = 20 ~----~----------~--------h1 =0 ~----------------~--------h2 ~---------L------h3 1----------y------hN-1 P~-1 P~-1 ~--------~------~--------hN Fig. Af ter numerous experiments we have found the half-Sehlumberger array to be the best anc.. The receiver box uses a phasc-Iocked teehnique of detection by referring the measured signal to an oscillating crystal matching the one in the transmitter box.. while less is gained by increasing the number offrequeneies beyoud three. Dipole-dipole configurations with transmitter and receiver dipole lengtbs of approximately 10 m solve these problems but suffer from the well-known effects of near surface inhomogeneities . This frequency contains almost exclusively galvanic information. p: and d.

NO IJ. Souree dipole length is 10 mand tbc distancc 10 the outer potenrial electrode is 39R. Model curves for the three high-resistivity equivalent rnodels shown in the figure for De (a) and 2441 Hz (b).FIRST BREAK VOL 7. NOVEMBER 1989/449 AC SOUNDING CURVES o HZ 5 2 5 2 10' 10 0 2 5 10' 2 5 10 2 2 5 10 3 Y (MI AC SOUNDING 10 3 CURVES 2441 HZ 2 3 0 . Notc that tbc apparent resisrivity curves for 2441 Hz do net asympotically approach thc value 10 Om of the bottom laycr but attain values which derend on the depth 10 the conductive bottorn layer. J . J.ll m.00 5 '00 "0 200 ro 2 1000 rs 500 " re 20 25 :>: :>: 910" <{ I ro 30 0 I rr 5 2 2 5 2 5 10 2 2 5 Y (MI Fig.

models with more than three layers do not make a better fit to the data and are not geologically relevant. The inductive contribution to the measurements of the AC resistivity sounding method makes it possible to find the depth to a good conductor. However. The main asset of the method is that it is a combined one which in the same measuring procedure gives both galvanic and inductive information.03 1. The varianee of the model parameters of one of the three-Iayer mode Is in Fig.29 1. though there are discrepancies in certain parts of the curves. The second layer is dry sand and gravel. OS 00 1. but a value of 1. The coefficients of anisotropy of the first and second layer are unity.20 1. which is comparable to DC. For hydrogeologicaI surveys the method will be effective in the location and depth estimation of salt-water fronts.11 thick1 thick2 10 m 10 m 1. 4 (a) together with an analysis of the uncertainty of the model parameters (b).03 1.10 1.04 1. Coefficients of anisotropy have been fixed at a value of 1. The parameters of the second layer are totally undetermined as is the depth to the bottom layer.51 00 1. 1979. 17 km N of Aarhus. In prospecting for raw materials the method will be weil suited for finding and estimating the volume of dry sand and gravel deposits. It is seen that the DC curves do not differ appreciably from one another while the 2441 Hz curves separate nicely for large electrode spacings.31 to 199. and a full AC sounding with the three standard frequencies.02 1. there is a very cIear high-resistivity equivalence. i. However. and a full AC sounding using three standard frequencies. The linear analysis of variances may be used to demonstrate what is al ready indicated by the apparent resistivity curves.02 1. 29 \.001. The ability of the AC resistivity sounding method to resolve the high resistivity equivalence problem may be shown in different ways.e.11 is found for the bottom layer. An ordinary DC sounding leaves the parameters of the second layer totally undetermined while the addition of just one higher frequency resolves the parameters of the second layer. . 09 \.51 00 1. Since the second layer is of the same thickness as the top layer. exhibits very cIearly the expected high-resistivity equivalence. a DC sounding with one higher frequency of 2441 Hz. which do not show up independently in the apparent resistivity curve but which make the third layer macro-anisotropic. Figure 4 also shows an analysis on the basis of the 76 Hz frequency alone. 3 with a high resistivity equivalent second layer is shown in Table 1 for th ree different cases: a DC sounding. This may be due to thin layers of sand and gravel embedded in the till. 76 Hz oe oe 2441 Hz 2441 Hz 9765 Hz rhol rho2 rho3 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 100 ohm m 1000 ohm m 10 ohm m I. thus resolving the well-known highresistivity equivalence of the DC soundings. while the bottom layer is also interpreted as cIayey till. Figure 3 shows apparent re sistivity curves for the three equivalent mode Is for the DC case (a) and for a freq uency of 2441 Hz (b). they are excluded from the analysis. Table 1. NO 11.11 m away. Example The following example is from Sperring.00 with an uncertainty factor of 1.04 Conclusion The AC resistivity sounding method is an efficient new prospecting method for general geological investigation of the topmost 100 metres of the earth. which covers most of the area.53 m with a density of 10 per decade and with a data error of 3%. An analysis of the uncertainty of the model parameters of one of the three layer models of Figure 3 in three different cases: a DC sounding. NOVEMBER 1989 may be treated in the inversion scheme thus making possible so-called 'elastic bounds' on the parameters (Jackson 1978. Jacobsen 1982). The three-Iayer model shown is in good agreement with the measurements. The covariance matrix of the least-squares problem is used for estimating the uncertainty of the model parameters when a certain data error is assumed. The top layer is interpreted as cIayey till.450IFIRST BREAK VOL 7.04 1. This sounding demonstrates the ability of the AC sounding method to resolve the high-resistivity equivalence of dry sand and gravellayers and to determine their depth extent. 10 depthl depth2 10 m 20 m 1. The measured data with the model curves and the physical model resulting from the interpretation are shown in Fig.12 1. a combination of a DC sounding and one higher frequency of 2441 Hz. The outer potential electrode is 398. This low frequency. It has been assumed th at measurements were made in the interval from 6. where AC soundings were made in prospecting for sand and gravel. on the basis of all three frequencies all model parameters are resolved. which in Denmark are of ten overlain and underlain by cIays of high conductivity. The use of all three standard frequencies gives a very good determination of the model parameters. The discrepancies must be attributed to near-surface inhomogeneities.

(JO 1 • (JO ( ( I .17 ( I • l. 1985. The model curves for the frequencies 2441 Hz and 9765 Hz are displaced downwards for reasons of cJarity. I 2 I ::E ::E I I 76 Hz 9102 . lil) ( I . AC-geoelektrisk málernetode (The AC resistivity sounding rnethod. . The a priori given values of the factors of anistropy are shown with the uncertainty of the fixed value in parentheses. 1983. accepted 27 July 1989. Data. The analysis shows the model parameters and the uncertainty is given as a factor in parentheses.86) 14.-------~------__. Lic. Rástofkontorets kortlegningsserie 4. 1979. and an analysis of the uncertainty of the model parameters (b) are shown. GeoSkrifter 12. . N. b() ( oe ) ó9 (4. . N. model curves (a). . ~ 2. Bath the theoretical and the practical stages of the development of the AC resistivity sounding method have received substantial tinancial support from Skovog Naturstyrelsen (The National Forest and Nature Agency). 12)( 1 .17 ( I .:?)( 1 .10.FIRST BREAK VOL 7. An interpretation of an AC sounding at Sperring.1 (I) ( 1 . NO 11. 14 ) 2284 ( I . CHRISTENSEN. ) 7 .21) a nis a n rs Lix I .24 ( 1 . Fredningsstyrelsen.00 ( .---------. 10) 1.fltl ( . . In Danish). " ( 1 .l::l3)(J. 2284 69 19765 s Y HZ 10 2 2 J 5 (Ml Jayer 2 laycr SPORRINC Jaycr 1 " rho H4 ( I .[)O t IJ ie k 7 . A theorectical and practical investigation of the marine eJectrical sounding method.10) ( I .86 'r------. NOVEMBER 19R9I451 SPORRING NO. S2) ( ~ 1 dcpth 7. Laboratory of Geophysics. The distance to the outer potential electrode is 398. Fast Hankel Transforms. 10) ( I • 1 U) 1 .. 18 31. In) .B.scient thesis. the second parenthesis refers to the uncertainty on the basis of the 76 Hz frequency alone. I I )( 1 . N. . 4.------.1 (I) . measurements have been made with a density of lOper decade.09) ( I • 1 () ( I .B. The 76 Hz curve is properly placed in the coordinate system. . Miljeministenet. The first parenthesis refers to the uncertainty on the basis of all three standard frequencies. University of Aarbus CHRISTENSEN. 10) ..10) ( I . 0 I cr: . Hf. Copcnhagen. 'IJ ( oe- ) Fig.B.00 c ( . Aeknowledgements Referenees CHRISTENSEN.11 m. Received 27 April 1989. and a basic noise level of 5% has been added to the electron ie noise of the data.-------. Aarhus Umversity.

Geophysica/ Prospecting 27.137-157. NOVEMBER 1989 DEY. 1933. WYNN. JACOBSEN. Geophysical Journal of the Royal Astronomica/ Society 42.K. Why. J.D. CHRISTENSEN. 83-102. Geophysics 38.D. 162. K. its removal and the cultural coupling problem.J. pp. thesis. and JEPSEN. Copenhagen. 1978. K.B. Midtvejsrapport (Interim Report. A priori data. V.C. Mutual impedance of grounded wires for horizontally stratified two-Iayer earth. KAUAHIKAUA. K. JuPP. Lic. Copenhagen.192-217. Linear inverse theory with a priori data. Rapport til Fredningsstyrelsen. K.H. Geophysical Prospecting 19. Et pilotstudium (AC-DC-geoelectrics. BeU Systems Technical Journa/12. Fredningsstyrelsen. Haak and J. AC-DCgeoelektrik. Geophysical Journal ofthe Royal Astronomica/ Society 57. its intrinsic value. data. The application of linear filter theory to the direct interpretation of geoelectrical resistivity sounding measurements. 1971. Springer-Verlag. Sabatier (ed. D. 1978. scient.452/FIRST BREAK VOL 7. S0RENSEN. 1979. 1979. D. Joint inversion of geophysical . Electromagnetic coupling in frequency and time-domain induced polarization surveys over a multilayered earth. K. S0RENSEN. N. 1979. JOHANSEN. A pilot study. D.L. In Danish). K.B.).D. 977-991. Berlin.B. H. H. The use of a priori data to resolve non-uniqueness in linear inversion. 1975. 1979. University of Aarhus. and S0RENSEN. Homelius (eds). S0RENSEN. P. RroRDAN.F..876-901. and ZONGE. EM Coupling. E.D. 1982. 1981. Applied Inverse Problems. Laboratory of Geophysics. 1973. and how? Protokoll Elektromagnetischen Tienfenforschung. Geophysics 40. Geophysics 43. JACKSON. and MORRISON.e.L. 1975. 1019-1022. Freie Universität Berlin. NO 11. In Danish).380-405. GHOSH. which. Electromagnetic fields about a horizontal electric wire souree of arbitrary length. and SUNDE. Fast Hankel Transforms. J. Schlumberger sounding using alternating currents. J.B. 831-850.P. JACKSON. and VOZOFF. A.