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Using high-resolution aeromagnetic surveys to map subsurface hydrogeology in sediment-filled basins: A case study over the Rio Grande Rift, Central New Mexico, USA

December 31, 2001

High-resolution aeromagnetic surveys were acquired for the Albuquerque basin in the central Rio Grande rift, a basin filled with poorly consolidated sediments. The surveys proved successful in efficiently and economically mapping previously unknown hydrogeologic features of the shallow subsurface. This success suggests that aeromagnetic methods may be useful in hydrogeologic studies of other sediment-filled basins.

The aeromagnetic surveys were used primarily to delineate buried igneous rocks and to locate faults within the basin fill, both important for understanding the subsurface hydrogeology. Buried igneous rocks were recognized from their high-frequency, high-amplitude magnetic responses and characteristic map patterns. The horizontal-gradient and local wavenumber methods were used to obtain estimates of their source depths.

The aeromagnetic surveys were also successfully used to locate faults within the basin fill. Magnetic signatures associated with faults are produced by the juxtaposition of sediments having differing magnetic properties rather than the products of secondary processes. Expression of faults is abundant throughout the basin, revealing patterns that cannot be mapped at the surface due to widespread cover.

A fault signature recognized in the high-resolution data that has multiple inflection points is best explained by a fault with a thin magnetic layer on the upthrown block and thick magnetic layer on the downthrown block, called the thin-thick layers model. Geologically, this signature indicates erosion of the upthrown block or a growth-faulting scenario: fault-controlled sedimentation for faults that offset sediments, and successive accumulation of basalt on the downthrown block for faults that offset volcanic rocks.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2001
Title Using high-resolution aeromagnetic surveys to map subsurface hydrogeology in sediment-filled basins: A case study over the Rio Grande Rift, Central New Mexico, USA
DOI 10.1071/EG01209
Authors V.J.S. Grauch
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Exploration Geophysics
Index ID 70207847
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center