Visualization of geophysical data: Surfer @ Exploration Geophysics Info

Visualization of geophysical data: Surfer

This entry was posted by Thursday, 9 February, 2012
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“I have been thinking for a while about writing on visualization of geophysical data. I finally got to it, and I am now pleased  to show you a technique I use often.  This tutorial has shaped up into 2 independent posts: in the first post I will show how to implement the technique with Surfer, in the second one with Matlab (you will need access to a license of Surfer 8.08 or later, and Matlab 2007a or later to replicate the work done in the tutorial).

I will illustrate the technique using gravity data since it is the data I developed it for. In an upcoming series of gravity exploration tutorials I will discuss in depth the acquisition, processing, enhancement, and interpretation of gravity data (see [1] and [4]). For now, suffice it to say that gravity prospecting is useful in areas where rocks with different density are laterally in contact, either stratigraphic or tectonic, producing a measurable local variation of the gravitational field. This was the case for the study area (in the Monti Romani of Southern Tuscany) from my thesis in Geology at the University of Rome [2].

In this part of the Apennine belt, a Paleozoic metamorphic basement (density ~2.7 g/cm3) is overlain by a thick sequence of clastic near-shore units of the Triassic-Oligocene Tuscany Nappe (density ~2.3 g/cm3). The Tuscan Nappe is in turn covered by the Cretaceous-Eocene flish units of the Liguride Complex (density ~2.1 g/cm3).

During the deformation of the Apennines, NE verging compressive thrusts caused doubling of the basement. The tectonic setting was later complicated by tensional block faulting with formation of horst-graben structures generally extend along NW-SE and N-S trends which were further disrupted by later and still active NE-SW normal faulting (see [2], and reference therein, for example [3]).”

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1] If you would like to learn more about gravity prospecting please check these excellent course notes.

[2] Niccoli, M., 2000:  Gravity, magnetic, and geologic exploration in the Monti Romani of Southern Tuscany, unpublished field and research thesis, Department of Earth Science, University of Rome La Sapienza.

[3] Moretti A., Meletti C., Ottria G. (1990) – Studio stratigrafico e strutturale dei Monti Romani (GR-VT) – 1: dal Paleozoico all’Orogenesi Alpidica. Boll. Soc. Geol. It., 109, 557-581. In Italian.

[4] Typically reduction of the raw data is necessary before any interpretation can be attempted. The result of this process of reduction is a Bouguer anomaly map, which is conceptually equivalent to what we would measure if we stripped away everything above sea level, therefore observing the distribution of rock densities below a regular surface. It is standard practice to also detrend the Bouguer anomaly to separate the influence of basin or crustal scale effects, from local effects, as either one or the other is often the target of the survey. The result of this procedure is typically called Residuals anomaly and often shows subtler details that were not apparent due to the regional gradients. Reduction to rsiduals makes it easier to qualitatively separate mass excesses from mass deficits. For a more detailed review of gravity exploration method check agai nthe notes in [1] and refer to this article on the CSEG Recorder and reference therein.

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