E H
H E
,
i
E H
H E, (1)
where E is the electric field, H is the magnetic field,
i is the imaginary unit, is the free air magnetic
permeability, is the angular frequency, and is the
conductivity distribution of the MT model.
After taking the curl operation on the second
component of equation(1) and substituting the result into
the rst component of equation(1), we get the curlcurl
equation for electrical eld E,
0 i E E . (2)
To uniformly define the electrical field in a bounded
solution domain, we must supply its tangent component
on the outer boundary (Harrington, 1961):
0
n E n, (3)
where n is the unit normal of the outer boundary, E
0
is a
known electric eld distribution on the outer boundary.
Generally, the known electric eld E
0
can be evaluated
from a 1D layerearth model, without considering the
effects of terrain and anomalous conductive bodies. This
assumption is proven to be efcient when the modeling
area boundary is far enough from the anomaly (Nam et
al., 2007). Here we present an analytic solution for a 1D
homogeneous earth model.
172
Threedimensional magnetotellurics modeling
1
1
1 1
0
( 1)
1
1 1
( 1)
, air
( 1)
earth
( 1)
z h
i
i C
C z
i h
C
e
i h
E (4)
where the positive zaxis of the Cartesian coordinate
system points vertically down, C is a given constant of
the top of the air layer (z = 0), h
1
is the thickness of the
air layer, and
1
is the skin depth of the homogeneous
earth layer.
Equations (2) and (3) are the boundary value problems
for MT forward modeling. By terms of the vector
identify formula B (
A)=A (
V E
. (7)
Edgebased nite element method
To solve the electric field expressed by equation(5)
using the vector finiteelement method, we divide
the entire computing domain into a set of irregular
tetrahedron elements. Unlike the nodebased finite
element process, where three components of the
unknown electric field are defined at each node, a
tangential component of the electric eld is assigned to
each edge of the tetrahedral mesh which has powerful
capabilities to approximate geometrically complex
boundaries. Given a tetrahedron element designated by e,
the electric eld E can be approximated as
5
0
e e e
i i
i
E
E
(8)
where E
e
i
and
e
i
denote the tangential electric field
and the vector shape function on the ith edge of the ith
element, respectively. We designate the ith edge vector
shape function using the expressions (see Figure 1),
1 2 2 1
( )
e e e e e e
i i i i i i
l L L L L , (9)
where l
e
i
is the length of ith edge. L
e
i1
and L
e
i2
are the origin
(a) An irregular tetrahedron (b) A standard element tetrahedron
Fig.1 The edge vector tetrahedron element and its projections.
3
E5
E4
2 1
E6
E2
(x, y, z)
E3
E1
4 (0, 0, 1)
E1
E3
E5
E6
E4
(0, 1, 0)
3
2
1
(0, 0, 0) ( , , )
E2
node shape functions defined at each node of the ith
edge, which can be expressed by a local coordinate
system as
1,2 1,2
( , , )
e e
i i
L g , (10)
where the explicit form of function g
e
i1,2
is wellknown (Xu,
1994; Zienkiewiez and Taylor, 2000).
As the divergence of
e
i
is zero, the requirements for
free divergence on the current density are easily satised
and since
e
i
is only continuous along the tangential
component of edges, the continuity of the tangential
component of the electric field is satisfied, but the
electric eld normal discontinuity remains. Additionally,
based on the vectorshape function, the tetrahedral
element can also efficiently suppress the spurious
physical solutions. In contrast, an extra penalty term
must be added to the nodebased niteelement method
to avoid the spurious solutions which results in increased
computation complexity (Jin, 2002).
173
Liu et al.
After substituting equations(8) and(9) into equation(5),
we get a complex linear equation
AU = B, (11)
where U is the unknown vector at the tetrahedron
element edge. Matrixes A and B can are
0
e
e
e
ij i j i j
e
i i
L
i d
d
eo
O
c
= V V O
}
= I
}
A
B E
,
(12)
0
e
e
e
ij i j i j
e
i i
L
i d
d
eo
O
c
= V V O
}
= I
}
A
B E
,
where B
i
is nonzero just at the edges of the outer
Dirichlet boundary. Generally, we try to calculate
equation (12) by numerical integrals. The integral
equation (12) can be transformed from the irregular
(x, y, z) coordinates (see Figure 1a) into a local coordinate
system (, , ) (see Figure 1b), resulting in
( , , )
0
( )   d d d
( )
p p p
ij i j i j
p
i j i j
i
i
i
c q
eo c q
eo
A
=
= V V
}
= A V V
A J
( , , )
0
( )   d d d
( )
p p p
ij i j i j
p
i j i j
i
i
i
c q
eo c q
eo
A
=
= V V
}
= A V V
A J
,
(13)
where is the volume of the irregular tetrahedron
element (0 + + 1), J is the Jacobian matrix for
projecting coordinates from the irregular element
e
to
the regular element
e
, and (
p
,
p
,
p
) are the Gaussian
integral coordinates. Similarly, we get
0 ( , , )
0
( )
q q q
q
e e
i i i
i
L
B E , (14)
where L
e
i
is the length of ith edge of the eth element,
(
q
,
q
,
q
) is the Gaussian integral coordinates on the
edge. Here, the threepoint Gaussian integral equation for
tetrahedra should be adopted to calculate the term
i
j
in the equation (13) accurately.
Using the right expression of
j
and
i
(see
Jin, 2002) and repeating element by element, we
can set up the global linear equation (11). Then, we
can use the Kylov subspace BICGSTAB solver with
LU preconditioner (Ruecker et al., 2006) to solve
the equation (11). After obtaining tangential electric
elds at each edge, the electric eld at each node (MT
station) is also calculated by local element projection.
Meanwhile, magnetic field H at each node can be
calculated by
1
i
H E
(15)
It is obvious that the magnetic eld is a constant for
each element. To improve accuracy, we use the average
magnetic eld H at adjacent node elements. Once both
the electric eld E and magnetic eld H are calculated,
we can estimate the apparent resistivities corresponding
to each measured surface point in X Y mode as
2 2
1 1
 
x
y
E
Zxy
H
(16)
20 km
20km
10 km
0 ohmm
x
y
z air
2000 m
earth
10 km
0 ohmm
2000m 2000m
(a) The spatial node distribution.
(b) Meshsection at z = 10 km. (c) Meshsection at y = 0
Fig. 2 The niteelement mesh used for the homogenous earth model (ParaviewTeam, 2008) with 9407 nodes and 58741
elements. Red dots are the nodes.
174
Threedimensional magnetotellurics modeling
and the corresponding phase variable
Im( )
arctan( )
Re( )
Zxy
Zxy
. (17)
Numerical examples
To test our method, we developed a 3D MT forward
modeling program based on the open source PHG
library (Zhang, 2008). In this program, an airlayer
with a small threshold conductivity is assumed and the
boundary conditions can be set up based on the depths,
resistivities, and number of earth layers. To efficiently
decrease storages requirements, the compressed row
storage (CRS) format is used for sparse matrixes; the
number of nonzero values for each row is in the range of
25100. The resulting complex linear equation is solved
by translation into a double real linear equation. The
matrix is no long symmetric. To solve this problem, we
use the BICGSTAB solver with LU preconditioner. If
the residual norm is less than 1e10, the computational
process is terminated. Furthermore, the magnetic
field values from the equation (15) may cause large
numerical errors. However, it is reasonable to average
a large quantity of finite element constant values
around the central node. Based on the unstructured
meshes generated by the TetGen library (Si, 2007)
and Rueckers results (Ruecker et al., 2006), we keep
a balance between accuracy and number of nodes by
enforcing 1.2 radiusedge ratio requirement for each
element.
Homogenous earth model
First, a homogenous half space earth model with
1 ohmm resistivity and 10
10
ohmm air layer is
considered. Our MT measuring stations are located
over an xaxis range of 1000 m to +1000 m at a 10
m interval. The electric structure is shown in Figure 2
with the corresponding niteelement mesh.
From Figure 2 we can see that the nodes and
elements are dense close to the measuring stations and
sparse far from the measuring region. These sharply
different gradient meshes suggest that numerical
solutions with higher accuracy can be obtained in the
vicinity of measuring stations and numerical results
accuracy are lower in the areas far from the measuring
stations. Figures 3a and 3b show the apparent
resistivity and phase curves at 1.0 Hz frequency. In the
outer boundary with x > 1000 m, the relative errors
at measuring stations are 1.0%  2.4% and that are
0.01%  1.0% in the inner range of x 1000 m. The
relative phase errors for x > 1000 m are 0.5%1.5%
(a) Apparent resistivities at 1.0 Hz. (b) Phases at 1.0 Hz.
(c) Apparent resisitivities at 0.1 Hz. (d) Phases at 0.1 Hz.
Fig. 3 Comparison of analytical solutions of apparent resistivities and phases for the homogenous earth model in XY mode.
x (m)
A
p
p
a
r
e
n
t
R
e
s
i
s
t
i
v
i
t
y
(
o
h
m

m
)
1000 500 0 500 1000
1.0 Hz
1.3
1.2
1.1
1.0
.9
.8
.7
60
55
50
45
40
35
P
h
a
s
e
(
d
e
g
r
e
e
)
1000 500 0 500 1000
1.0 Hz
x (m)
x (m)
A
p
p
a
r
e
n
t
R
e
s
i
s
t
i
v
i
t
y
(
o
h
m

m
)
1000 500 0 500 1000
0.1 Hz
1.3
1.2
1.1
1.0
.9
.8
.7
60
55
50
45
40
35
P
h
a
s
e
(
d
e
g
r
e
e
)
1000 500 0 500 1000
0.1 Hz
x (m)
175
Liu et al.
air
1
2
3
4
20 km 20 km
100 ohmm, 20 km
10 ohmm, 10 km
100 ohmm,
1 km
100 ohmm,
250 m
10 ohmm, 10 km
(a) Spatial node distribution and electric structure. (b) 3 D Finiteelement mesh.
(c) Meshsection at z = 10 km.
Fig. 4 The niteelement mesh used for the fourlayer model
which has 5165 nodes and 29286 elements.
but that are 0.05%0.5% in the inner range of x 1000
m. The same results were obtained at a low frequency
of 0.1 Hz (see Figures 3c and 3d). The number of
iterations of BICGSTAB with LU preconditioner with
a 1e10 threshold for 1.0 and 0.1 Hz are 348 and 422,
respectively. The computation times are 4.5 and 5.8
minutes on a P4 2.8 G CPU with 512 MB RAM PC with
Fedora 8.0 operating system. This single earth model
not only validates our code but also shows the powerful
performance of the local refinement techniques at
measuring stations in FEM modeling.
Fourlayer model
The second tested model is a four horizontal layers
model. Its spatial dimension is 20 km 20 km 31.25
km with each layer depth and conductive structure
shown in Figure 4a. The boundary conditions are taken
from the fourlayer model analytical solutions (Xu,
2001). As the first layer is rather thin, the nodes and
elements are clustered on the airearth interface and in
the rst layer which makes sure we get highly accurate
MT results in a wide frequency range of 0.001Hz to
1000 Hz. There are 121 measuring stations in a line
with a length of 3000 m on the xaxis. The model node
distribution and finiteelement meshes are shown in
Figures 4a and 4b. The numerical apparent resistivity
and phase curves in the range of 0.001 Hz 1000 Hz
are shown in Figure 5. The sounding point is at the
coordinate origin. Our results agree with the 2D node
based niteelement program (Shi and Xu, 1997) as well
as with the analytical solution.
3D Test model
COMMEMI 3D1 model This is an internatio nal
universal test model, COMMEMI 3D1 model, in which
a hexahedral anomalous low resistivity body is buried.
The resistivitiy of the anomalous body is 0.5 ohmm and
the background resistivity is 100 ohmm, so the contrast
ratio is 1:2000. High contrasting models are usually
difficult for common numerical modeling programs to
process (Mitsuhata and Uchida, 2004). The model size is
100 km along the x and y axes and 50 km for the air layer
and 50 km for the earth layer in the zdirection. The MT
measurement lines are 3 km in both x and y directions.
We know from model 1 that a highly accurate numerical
solution can be obtained by locally refining nodes and
elements near MT lines. We selected 121 MT measuring
points for generating dense nodes and meshes in their
176
Threedimensional magnetotellurics modeling
10
3
10
2
10
1
10
0
10
1
10
2
10
3
1
10
100
Analytical solution
2D fem
Tet 4
T (s)
A
p
p
a
r
e
n
t
r
e
s
i
s
t
i
v
i
t
y
(
o
h
m

m
)
(a) Apparent resistivitiy (b) Phase
(a) Meshsection at z = 50 km (b) Meshsection at x = 0
Fig. 5 Comparison of our algorithm (TET4) with analytical and 2D nodebased niteelement algorithm solutions. 2DFEM denotes
Shi and Xus algorithm (Shi and Xu, 1997) and TET4 stands for our 3D edgebased niteelement algorithm.
vicinity using our mesh generation algorithm. Further
from the measuring points, less dense elements and
meshes are generated. The sharp gradient meshes from the
three axial symmetry planes are shown in Figure 6. With
regard to the boundary conditions, we use a horizontal
layer numerical solution (equation) with the 100 ohmm
background resistivity of the homogenous layer.
10
3
10
2
10
1
10
0
10
1
10
2
10
3
0
40
T (s)
P
h
a
s
e
(
d
e
g
r
e
e
)
80
60
20
Analytical solution
2D fem
Tet 4
(c) Meshsection at y = 0
Fig. 6 The niteelement mesh used for the COMMEMI 3D1
model (ParaviewTeam, 2008) containing 10553 nodes and
65896 elements.
To validate our algorithm, we compared our results
with those of the COMMEMI project (Zhdanov et
al., 1997), the staggeredgrid finitedifference method
(Sasaki, 2001), and the vectorscalar potentialsbased
T algorithm (Mitsuhata and Uchida, 2004). We uses an
irregular unstructured mesh with 10553 nodes and 65896
elements for the XY mode and used a working frequency
of 0.1 Hz. After 541 iterations, the BiCGSTAB solver
terminated the iterations. The residual error is less than
1e10. In Figure 7, we show the apparent resistivitiy
and phase curves measured on the lines along the x and
yaxis. Obviously, our numerical solutions agree well
with the results of COMMEMI, finitedifference, and
T algorithms. However, we found some unstable
solutions exist at the both ends of the MT lines. From
Figure 6 we can see that the element and node density
at both ends of the MT line are sparser than along the
lines. The sparser elements and mesh must cause the
inaccuracy. This shows the importance of the local mesh
renement techniques.
177
Liu et al.
Sasaki (SFD)
Commemi
To3dmt
Tet 4
100
10
1
A
p
p
a
r
e
n
t
r
e
s
i
s
t
i
v
i
t
y
(
o
h
m

m
)
0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000
x (m)
To3dmt
Sasaki (sfd)
Tet 4
P
h
a
s
e
(
d
e
g
r
e
e
)
0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500
3000
70
60
50
40
30
x (m)
20 0 (km)
X
Z
(km)
30
10
10 ohmm 1 ohmm 10 ohmm
100 ohmm
0.1 ohmm
20
100 ohmm
X
20
20
(km)
10 ohmm
0
1 ohmm
10 ohmm
20
(km)
Y
100 ohmm
20
(a) Apparent resistivitiy along the xaxis line.
(b) Phase along the xaxis line.
(c) Apparent resistivity along the yaxis line.
(d) Phase along the yaxis line.
(a) Section view at y = 0. (b) Section view at z = 0.
Fig.8 The COMMEMI 3D2 model
Fig. 7 Comparison of the apparent resistivity and phase curves obtained by our algorithm with other numerical algorithms at 0.1Hz
frequency in XY mode.
To3dmt
Commemi
Sasaki (SFD)
Tet 4
100
10
1
A
p
p
a
r
e
n
t
r
e
s
i
s
t
i
v
i
t
y
(
o
h
m

m
)
0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000
x (m)
To3dmt
Sasaki (sfd)
Tet 4
P
h
a
s
e
(
d
e
g
r
e
e
)
0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000
70
60
50
40
30
x (m)
3D Complex model
COMMEMI 3D2 model Finally, we consider a
complex model, the COMMEMI 3D2 model (Zhdanov
et al., 1997) with its geometrical conductivity shown in
Figure 8. The solution domain is 200 km 200 km 150
km in the x, y, and z directions, respectively. The depth
of the air layer is 50 km with a 10
10
ohmm resistivity.
Our MT stations are located along the x axis in the range
of 55 km to 55 km. The analytical solutions of the three
layer model are adopted as the boundary conditions with
10 ohmm resistivity in the rst layer. The nite element
mesh is shown in Figure 9. In Figure 10, we compare our
selected results with the solution obtained by the vector
scalar T potentials finiteelement method (Mitsuhata
and Uchida, 2004) at 0.001 Hz. In the XY mode, with
20355 nodes and 102938 elements, our results agreed
well with Mitsuhata and Uchidas.
178
Threedimensional magnetotellurics modeling
x (km)
80 60 0 20
.01
1
100
To3dmt
Tet 4
A
p
p
a
r
e
n
t
r
e
s
i
s
t
i
v
i
t
y
(
o
h
m

m
)
.1
10
40 20 40 60 80
(a) Meshsection at y = 0. (b) Meshsection at z = 0 km.
Fig. 9 The niteelement mesh used for the COMMEMI 3D2 model with 20355 nodes and 102938 elements.
(a) Apparent resistivity (b) Phases
Fig.10 The comparison of our results with the T niteelement method. The responses were calculated along the xaxis at
0.001Hz in the XY mode.
P
h
a
s
e
(
d
e
g
r
e
e
)
100
90
80
70
50
x (m)
60
80 60 0 20 40 20 40 60 80
To3dmt
Tet 4
Conclusions
In this study, we investigated the tetrahedron edge
based nite element method using unstructured meshes
for modeling 3D MT models. Highly accurate numerical
solutions can be achieved by locally rening the meshes
in the neighborhood of the interesting measuring
stations. Keeping sparse meshes in other regions, the
solution accuracy is improved and the computational
time is reduced, making fast MT forward modeling
possible. Using three simple examples, we show that
combining the edgebased FEM with unstructured
meshes has proven to provide efcient forward modeling
for MT problems. However, this work is only an initial
start. In the future, more complex cases including
topography will be studied. Additionally, we have also
recognized that if we want to decrease dependency on
artistic local renement mesh techniques, an automatic
adaptive 3D mesh refinement algorithm in cooperation
with a sophisticated goaloriented error estimator (Oden
and Prudhomme, 2001) should be developed for the 3D
electromagnetic curlcurl equation.
Acknowledgements
The authors thank Dr. Hang Si and Prof. Linbo Zhang
for making their stateoftheart open source libraries,
TetGen and PHG, freely available. Also, the authors
thank the Paraview teams for developing an excellent
mesh data visualization tool to show the niteelement
meshes.
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180
Threedimensional magnetotellurics modeling
Tang Jingtian graduated with
a PhD f r om t he I ns t i t ut e of
Appl i ed Geophysi cs, Cent ral
South University, in 1992. He
was a research Professor at the
U.S. Lawrence Berkeley National
Laboratory in 19981999. He is
currently a full Professor at the
Institute of Applied Geophysics,
Central South University.
Yan Yan graduated with a Masters
degr ee f r om t he I nst i t ut e of
Higher Education, Central South
University, in 2008. Her research
i nt er est i s nat ur al r esour ces
evaluation.
Liu Changsheng graduated with a
Masters degree from the Institute
of Computer and Technologies,
Cent ral Sout h Uni versi t y. He
is now a Doctoral student for
EM modeling at the Institute of
Applied Geophysics, Central South
University.
Ren Zhengyong (Corresponding
author), graduated with a Masters
degr ee f r om t he I nst i t ut e of
Applied Geophysics, Central South
University, in 2007. He is now
a PhD candidate at the Institute
of Geophysics, Department of
Earth Science, ETH ZurichSwiss
Federal Institute of Technology.
His research interest is mainly MT
inversion. Email: renzhengyong@gmail.com
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