Imaging freshwater and saline aquifers beneath Bradford County, Pennsylvania, USA, using Audio-Magnetotelluric (AMT) data

Sampath Rathnayaka, Chloe D. Gustafson, David Yoxtheimer, Andrew Nyblade

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We investigate the utility of audio-magnetotelluric (AMT) data for detecting high electrical conductivity zones indicative of fresh and saline groundwater lenses at depths of < ∼1000 m at seven survey sites in the southwestern corner of Bradford County, PA. Dimensionality analysis indicates the AMT data can be interpreted using two-dimensional (2-D) models. 2-D electrical resistivity models obtained from inverting the AMT data reveal conductive zones at depths of <30 m at all sites, between depths of 50–150 m at six sites, and between depths of 400–600 m at one site. The models show slightly lower resistivities (∼15–30 Ω m) in the deeper zones compared to the shallower zones (>30 Ω m). Consistent with well log data from two boreholes in the study area and salinity estimates obtained from the imaged resistivities, we interpret the <30 m deep conductive zone as the freshwater aquifer, and the two deeper conductive zones as salty/briny groundwater lenses. Our salinity estimates for the deeper zones vary from 1 to 380 (unitless Practical Salinity Scale), which agrees well with previous estimates of Appalachian brine salinity of 10–343. We attribute the high-salinity groundwater lenses to Appalachian Basin brine migrating upwards from deeper in the basin via bedrock fracture and fault systems. Our findings indicate AMT surveying can be useful for imaging fresh and saline aquifers at shallow depths (< ∼1000 m), at least within the northeastern section of the Appalachian Basin in Pennsylvania.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105255
JournalJournal of Applied Geophysics
StatePublished - Jan 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics

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