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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
05 Dec 2011
Review status
A revision of this discussion paper for further review has not been submitted.
Optimisation of quasi-3D electrical resistivity imaging – application and inversion for investigating heterogeneous mountain permafrost
D. Schwindt and C. Kneisel Institute of Geography and Geology, Department of Physical Geography, University of Würzburg, Am Hubland, 97074 Würzburg, Germany
Abstract. This study aimed to optimise the application, efficiency and interpretability of quasi-3D resistivity imaging for investigating the heterogeneous permafrost distribution at mountain sites by a systematic forward modelling approach. A three dimensional geocryologic model, representative for most mountain permafrost settings, was developed. Based on this geocryologic model quasi-3D models were generated by collating synthetic orthogonal 2D arrays, demonstrating the effects of array types and electrode spacing on resolution and interpretability of the inversion results. The effects of minimising the number of 2D arrays per quasi-3D grid were tested by enlarging the spacing between adjacent lines and by reducing the number of perpendicular tie lines with regard to model resolution and loss of information value. Synthetic and measured quasi-3D models were investigated with regard to the lateral and vertical resolution, reliability of inverted resistivity values, the possibility of a quantitative interpretation of resistivities and the response of the inversion process on the validity of quasi-3D models. Results show that setups using orthogonal 2D arrays with electrode spacings of 2 m and 3 m are capable of delineating lateral heterogeneity with high accuracy and also deliver reliable data on active layer thickness. Detection of permafrost thickness, especially if the permafrost base is close to the penetration depth of the setups, and the reliability of absolute resistivity values emerged to be a weakness of the method. Quasi-3D imaging has proven to be a promising tool for investigating permafrost in mountain environments especially for delineating the often small-scale permafrost heterogeneity, and therefore provides an enhanced possibility for aligning permafrost distribution with site specific surface properties and morphological settings.

Citation: Schwindt, D. and Kneisel, C.: Optimisation of quasi-3D electrical resistivity imaging – application and inversion for investigating heterogeneous mountain permafrost, The Cryosphere Discuss., 5, 3383-3421,, 2011.
D. Schwindt and C. Kneisel
D. Schwindt and C. Kneisel


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