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Esben Auken

Characterizing the diverse hydrogeology underlying rivers and estuaries using new floating transient electromagnetic methodology

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • John W. Lane, United States Geological Survey
  • ,
  • Martin A. Briggs, United States Geological Survey
  • ,
  • Pradip K. Maurya
  • Eric A. White, United States Geological Survey
  • ,
  • Jesper B. Pedersen
  • Esben Auken
  • Neil Terry, United States Geological Survey
  • ,
  • Burke Minsley, United States Geological Survey
  • ,
  • Wade Kress, United States Geological Survey
  • ,
  • Denis R. LeBlanc, United States Geological Survey
  • ,
  • Ryan Adams, United States Geological Survey
  • ,
  • Carole D. Johnson, United States Geological Survey

The hydrogeology below large surface water features such as rivers and estuaries is universally under-informed at the long reach to basin scales (tens of km+). This challenge inhibits the accurate modeling of fresh/saline groundwater interfaces and groundwater/surface water exchange patterns at management-relevant spatial extents. Here we introduce a towed, floating transient electromagnetic (TEM) system (i.e. FloaTEM) for rapid (up to 15 km/h) high resolution electrical mapping of the subsurface below large water bodies to depths often a factor of 10 greater than other towed instruments. The novel FloaTEM system is demonstrated at a range of diverse 4th through 6th-order riverine settings across the United States including 1) the Farmington River, near Hartford, Connecticut; 2) the Upper Delaware River near Barryville, New York; 3) the Tallahatchie River near Shellmound, Mississippi; and, 4) the Eel River estuary, on Cape Cod, near Falmouth, Massachusetts. Airborne frequency-domain electromagnetic and land-based towed TEM data are also compared at the Tallahatchie River site, and streambed geologic scenarios are explored with forward modeling. A range of geologic structures and pore water salinity interfaces were identified. Process-based interpretation of the case study data indicated FloaTEM can resolve varied sediment-water interface materials, such as the accumulation of fines at the bottom of a reservoir and permeable sand/gravel riverbed sediments that focus groundwater discharge. Bedrock layers were mapped at several sites, and aquifer confining units were defined at comparable resolution to airborne methods. Terrestrial fresh groundwater discharge with flowpaths extending hundreds of meters from shore was also imaged below the Eel River estuary, improving on previous hydrogeological characterizations of that nutrient-rich coastal exchange zone. In summary, the novel FloaTEM system fills a critical gap in our ability to characterize the hydrogeology below surface water features and will support more accurate prediction of groundwater/surface water exchange dynamics and fresh-saline groundwater interfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Article number140074
JournalScience of the total Environment
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • Groundwater, Groundwater/surface water interactions, Hydrogeophysics, River, Saltwater intrusion

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