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Comparison of soil thickness in a zero-order basin in the Oregon Coast Range using a soil probe and electrical resistivity tomography

January 1, 2012

Accurate estimation of the soil thickness distribution in steepland drainage basins is essential for understanding ecosystem and subsurface response to infiltration. One important aspect of this characterization is assessing the heavy and antecedent rainfall conditions that lead to shallow landsliding. In this paper, we investigate the direct current (DC) resistivity method as a tool for quickly estimating soil thickness over a steep (33–40°) zero-order basin in the Oregon Coast Range, a landslide prone region. Point measurements throughout the basin showed bedrock depths between 0.55 and 3.2 m. Resistivity of soil and bedrock samples collected from the site was measured for degrees of saturation between 40 and 92%. Resistivity of the soil was typically higher than that of the bedrock for degrees of saturation lower than 70%. Results from the laboratory measurements and point-depth measurements were used in a numerical model to evaluate the resistivity contrast at the soil-bedrock interface. A decreasing-with-depth resistivity contrast was apparent at the interface in the modeling results. At the field site, three transects were surveyed where coincident ground truth measurements of bedrock depth were available, to test the accuracy of the method. The same decreasing-with-depth resistivity trend that was apparent in the model was also present in the survey data. The resistivity contour of between 1,000 and 2,000 Ωm that marked the top of the contrast was our interpreted bedrock depth in the survey data. Kriged depth-to-bedrock maps were created from both the field-measured ground truth obtained with a soil probe and interpreted depths from the resistivity tomography, and these were compared for accuracy graphically. Depths were interpolated as far as 16.5 m laterally from the resistivity survey lines with root mean squared error (RMSE) = 27 cm between the measured and interpreted depth at those locations. Using several transects and analysis of the subsurface material properties, the direct current (DC) resistivity method is shown to be able to delineate bedrock depth trends within the drainage basin.

Publication Year 2012
Title Comparison of soil thickness in a zero-order basin in the Oregon Coast Range using a soil probe and electrical resistivity tomography
DOI 10.1061/(ASCE)GT.1943-5606.0000717
Authors Michael S. Morse, Ning Lu, Jonathan W. Godt, André Revil, Jeffrey A. Coe
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering
Index ID 70045123
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geologic Hazards Science Center