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By Kenneth L. Zonge
Zonge Engineering and Research Organization, Inc.

(Extracted from Practical Geophysics II, Northwest Mining Association, 1992.)

S ilver B e ll C S AM T Line 28
S m oo th-m od el R esistiv ity (o hm -m )
-4 00
-2 00


3 0 00
2 8 00
2 6 00
2 4 00
E le va tion (fe e t)

2 2 00
2 0 00
1 8 00
1 6 00
1 4 00
1 2 00
1 0 00
S ta tic-co rre cte d C S A M T da ta fro m L 2 8.A V G
C o rrecte d w ith 4 09 6 H z T M A filte r

Zonge Engineering and Research Organization, Inc.

3322 East Fort Lowell Road
Tucson, Arizona 85716 USA
Tel (1-520) 327-5501 Fax (1-520) 325-1588 Email

Alaska Nevada Austalia Chile

Tel (1-907) 474-3679 Tel (1-702) 355-7707 Tel (61-8) 8340-4308 Tel (011-56-55-26-8096)
Fax (1-907) 474-3684 Fax (1-702) 355-9144 Fax (61-8) 8340-4309 Fax (011-56-55-26-8096)
Controlled source audio-frequency magnetotellurics (CSAMT) is a high resolution electromagnetic
sounding technique which uses a fixed grounded dipole or horizontal loop as an artificial signal source.
CSAMT is similar to the natural source magnetotellurics (MT) and audio-frequency magnetotellurics
(AMT) techniques, with the main difference being the use of an artificial signal source for CSAMT. The
source provides a stable signal, resulting in higher-precision and faster measurements than are usually
obtainable with natural-source measurements in the same spectral band. However, the controlled source
can also complicate interpretation by adding source effects, and by placing certain logistical restrictions on
the survey. In most practical field situations these drawbacks are not serious, and the method has proven
particularly effective in mapping the earth's crust in the range of 20 to 2000 meters.

Arrays and sensors

A CSAMT source usually consists of a grounded electric dipole one to two km in length, located four to
ten km from the area where the measurements are to be made. The frequency band for typical instruments
is between 0.125 and 8,000 Hz, with measurements most commonly made in the 16 to 8,000 Hz range.
Magnitude and phase are normally measured for one electric (E) and one magnetic (H) field component
(for example Ex and Hy, with Ex parallel to the transmitting dipole and Hy perpendicular) See Figure 1.
In reconnaissance mode with an eight channel receiver, up to 7 electric field dipoles can be measured
simultaneously with just one magnetic field measurement. For detailing modes electric and magnetic
orthogonal pairs (Ex, Hy) are normally measured. For widely spaced soundings or for research
applications vector and tensor measurements utilizing two electric field components (Ex, Ey) and three
magnetic field components (Hx, Hy, Hz) should be considered.

Figure 1: Field setup for a scalar reconnaissance CSAMT survey using multiple E-fields and one H-field
Figure 2: Field configurations for: (a) a
scalar CSAMT survey, (b) a multiple E-
field reconnaissance CSAMT survey, or
controlled source audio frequency
(CSAET)survey, (c) a vector CSAMT
survey, (d) a tensor CSAMT survey. An
alternative set-up for the tensor survey
would be to have one transmitter at its
present location to the west of the
receiver station (oriented N-S) and the
other to the north (oriented E-W).

A good reconnaissance CSAMT

configuration is the multiple electric
field measurement which is also called
the controlled source audio-frequency
electrotelluric (CSAET) method. Using an eight channel receiver you can measure up to seven electric
fields for each magnetic field as shown in Figure 2b. The one magnetic field measurement is then used to
normalize each one of the electric fields for calculation of the Cagniard resistivity and phase difference.
The horizontal component of the magnetic field (Hy) usually varies relatively smoothly along a survey line
permitting sparse measurement of this component on a reconnaissance basis. For detail work it is
recommended that one make scalar measurements as in Figure 2a, or at least reduce the number of
electric-to-magnetic field measurements to 3:1 or 2:1.

If you are going to make measurements on a sparse grid, for example making individual soundings every
kilometer or every 500 meters instead of running continuous stations along a line, you may want to
consider vector or tensor measurements. (See Figures 2c and 2d). These measurements can provide
information on anisotropy (current channeling) and 2-D or 3-D behavior of the subsurface on an individual
station basis. Vector or tensor arrays are not necessary for normal continuous line profiling since
variations from station-to-station provide information on geologic dimensionality.
Of the four arrays shown in Figure 2, the most commonly used systems are scalar CSAMT (Figure 2a) and
the reconnaissance CSAET measurement technique (Figure 2b).

Grounded dipoles detect the electric field and magnetic coil antennas sense the magnetic field. The ratio
of orthogonal, horizontal electric and magnetic field magnitudes (e.g. Ex and Hy) yields the apparent
resistivity. This is usually referred to as the apparent or Cagniard resistivity after the French geophysicist
who was instrumental in the development of the magnetotelluric (MT) method in the early 1950's
(Cagniard, 1953). The difference between the phase of the electric and magnetic fields yields the
impedance phase, which we will often just call the phase or phase difference.

A parameter used extensively in EM work is skin depth for frequency domain systems (diffusion depth in
time domain systems). Skin depth, , is equal to 503 a/f meters; where a = apparent (measured)
resistivity, and f = signal frequency. This is the depth at which the amplitude of a plane wave signal has
dropped to 37 percent of its original value.

AMT depth of exploration or depth of investigation, D, is equal to /2 or 356 a/f meters. This equation
holds for CSAMT when the separation between the transmitter dipole and the receiver station is greater
than three skin depths or 3. Although this equation predicts unlimited depths of investigation under the
right circumstances, we have found that in actual practice the maximum depth of investigation is limited to
about 3 km.

Lateral resolution is controlled by the electric field dipole length, which normally is between l0 and 200
meters. Vertical resolution is 5 percent to 20 percent of the depth of exploration, depending upon
resistivity contrasts, geologic complexity and electrical noise.

Table I lists the basic equations most commonly used for calculating apparent or Cagniard resistivity, skin
depth and depth of investigation. These equations hold for a layered earth with the transmitter placed an
infinite distance from the receiver. The limitations brought on by a finite distance between transmitter and
receiver will be discussed later. Figure 3 shows how to determine exploration depth from resistivity and
Cagniard Resistivity, ρa:

ρ a
H ⊥

Phase difference,Φ :

φ = φ E − φH (milliradians)

Skin depth δ is defined by:

2 ρ
δ= = 503
µ σ ω f

Equivalent depth of investigation, D:

D = 356 a
(D in meters)

Wavelength, λ:

λ = 2πδ

E = electric field in mV/km
H = magnetic field in gamma (γ) or nanoteslas (nT)
Φ = phase in milliradians
µ = magnetic permeability of air = 4 p x 10-7
σ = conductivity in siemem/meter = 1/r
ω = 2 p f, f=frequency in Hz
ρ = resistivity in ohm-metrs = 1/ σ

Table 1: Useful equations for CSAMT.

If it is impractical to set up a large dipole for a transmitting source, you can also use a large loop of wire
for the transmitting antenna. The main drawback of the loop source is its inefficiency in coupling energy
into the ground. Given a dipole and square loop of the same size (say a one kilometer dipole and a one
kilometer square loop) it takes eight to ten times more loop current than dipole current to get the same
signal level at the receiving site. For this reason, loops are seldom used as transmitting sources. However,
the Cagniard resistivity and phase measurements are the same in the far-field for both sources, but differ in
the transition and near-field zones.
Figure 3: Effective investigation depth for CSAMT as a function of frequency and ground resistivity.

Description of measured fields

Far-field: The electric and magnetic fields, that are generated by driving current into the ground with the
large transmitting dipole, propagate along the surface of the ground and penetrate nearly vertically into the
ground at distances beyond half a wavelength (approximately 3) from the transmitter. This zone of
vertical penetration is called the far-field, and in this area the electric and magnetic fields behave as plane
waves, similar to natural source MT and AMT fields. Therefore we can use the simplified MT and AMT
equations for modeling structure in the far-field.

Near-field: When the electrical distance between the transmitter and receiver becomes less than 3 (about
1/2 wavelength - see Table 1) at the frequency being measured, the electric and magnetic fields change
gradually from plane-wave to curved, and the Cagniard resistivity formula no longer provides realistic
apparent resistivity values. When operating in the far-field or plane-wave zone over a layered earth, both
E and H-fields drop off as 1/r3, where r is the separation between the transmitter and receiver, and both
fields vary as a function of frequency and earth resistivity. In the transition zone, the H-field drop off
begins to change to 1/r2 and the dependency on frequency and earth resistivity begins to change as well.
The E-field continues to drop off as 1/r3 and retains its function of earth resistivity, but its dependency on
frequency also begins to change.

In the near-field the H-field decays at 1/r2, becomes saturated and no longer varies as a function of
frequency or resistivity. The E-field still remains a function of resistivity, decays at 1/r3, but is
independent of frequency. It is in this near-field zone that depth of investigation becomes independent of
frequency and dependent upon array geometry. This is the condition that actually puts a practical limit on
the depth of exploration for CSAMT soundings. For consistency, we continue to use the Cagniard
resistivity calculation through the transition zone and into the near-field, although the values calculated in
these areas do not reflect the actual resistivity values of the earth.
Following are some general rules for phase interpretation:


785 mr - homogeneous half-space response.
> 785 mr - indicates going from high to low resistivity layering with depth.
< 785 mr - indicates going from low to high resistivity layering with depth.


> 0 mr - indicates basement with a low resistivity contrast ( <1:10 )
< 0 mr - indicates basement with a high resistivity contrast ( >1:100 )

NEAR FIELD: All values tend toward 0 milliradians

Depth of exploration

As observed in the graph in Figure 1 and the equations in Table 1. The depth of exploration or
investigation is related to the square root of ground resistivity and the inverse square root of signal
frequency. Although the equations do not provide any limit to the depth of exploration obtainable, the
maximum usable depth achieved in practice is usually between 2 and 3 kilometers. As a general rule,
when sounding over a relatively homogeneous half-space, the separation between transmitter and receiver
should be about 5 times the depth of exploration. Therefore, if you want to see down to 1 km you should
have receiver-transmitter separation of about 5 km. If the background resistivity is 1000 m, you will only
have to sound down to about 100 Hz to penetrate 1 km; if the background resistivity is 100 m, you will
have to sound down to about 10 Hz, etc. Refer to Figure 1 for more information.

The limiting factor on depth of exploration with all of the data in the far-field is usually signal level. The
electric and magnetic fields drop off as the inverse cube of the separation distance (1/r3) between the
receiver and transmitter, so the signal level drops off very quickly. It is not unusual to work in
environments where the background noise is more than 10 times the signal level. Most surveys are run
with receiver-transmitter separations between 5 and 15 kilometers.

Lateral resolution

Lateral resolution is mainly determined by the size of the E-field dipole. Theoretically you could make the
dipole as small as you wish to get the desired lateral resolution, but again signal strength and noise inter
the picture. Received signal strength is proportional to the length of the dipole, so if you cut the dipole
size in half, you cut your signal strength in half. I think the smallest dipole we have used in normal
production is about 25 feet (8 m).