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Using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and Transient Electromagnetics to characterise water distribution beneath an ice covered volcanic crater: the case of Sherman Crater Mt. Baker, WashingtonNormal access

Authors: Trevor Irons, Kathryn Martin, Carol Finn, Benjamin Bloss and Robert Horton
Journal name: Near Surface Geophysics
Issue: Vol 12, No 2, April 2014 pp. 285 - 296
DOI: 10.3997/1873-0604.2014009
Special topic: Magnetic Resonance in the Subsurface
Language: English
Info: Article, PDF ( 1.21Mb )
Price: € 30

Surface and laboratory Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) measurements combined with transient electromagnetic (TEM) data are powerful tools for subsurface water detection. Surface NMR (sNMR) and TEM soundings, laboratory NMR, complex resistivity, and X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) analysis were all conducted to characterise the distribution of water within Sherman Crater on Mt. Baker, WA. Clay rich rocks, particularly if water saturated, can weaken volcanoes, thereby increasing the potential for catastrophic sector collapses that can lead to far-travelled, destructive debris flows. Detecting the presence and volume of shallow groundwater is critical for evaluating these landslide hazards. The TEM data identify a low resistivity layer (<10 ohm-m), under 60 m of glacial ice related to water saturated clays. The TEM struggles to resolve the presence or absence of a plausible thin layer of bulk liquid water on top of the clay. The sNMR measurements did not produce any observable signal, indicating the lack of substantial accumulated bulk water below the ice. Laboratory analysis on a sample from the crater wall that likely represented the clays beneath the ice confirmed that the controlling factor for the lack of sNMR signal was the fine-grained nature of the media. The laboratory measurements further indicated that small pores in clays detected by the XRD contain as much as 50% water, establishing an upper bound on the water content in the clay layer. Forward modelling of geologic scenarios revealed that bulk water layers as thin as ½ m between the ice and clay layer would have been detectable using sNMR. The instrumentation conditions which would allow for sNMR detection of the clay layer are investigated. Using current instrumentation the combined analysis of the TEM and sNMR data allow for valuable characterisation of the groundwater system in the crater. The sNMR is able to reduce the uncertainty of the TEM in regards to the presence of a bulk water layer, a valuable piece of information in hazard assessment.

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