Enhancing the resolution of airborne gamma-ray data using horizontal gradients

Beamish, David. 2016 Enhancing the resolution of airborne gamma-ray data using horizontal gradients. Journal of Applied Geophysics, 132. 75-86.

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The spatial resolution characteristics of airborne gamma-ray data are largely controlled by survey elevation and line separation. In the UK, although low nominal surveys altitudes may be permitted, regulatory zones with elevations in excess of 180 m are required above conurbations. Since the data, typically in the form of grids, are evaluated alongside many other detailed geoscientific spatial datasets their absolute resolution limits, together with their spatial characteristics, become relevant. Here, using published software, we study the theoretical resolution characteristics of this form of survey data obtained with a line separation of 200 m. Of particular interest is the airborne response behaviour when non-uniform distributions of radioactivity are encountered. Although ultimately a function of the radioelement-concentration contrast encountered, the calculations reveal that such zones are most difficult to identify when their scale length decreases below the scale of the line separation. This limited resolution then further decreases with elevation. In order to increase our ability to resolve the edges of non-uniform source regions we calculate the horizontal gradient magnitude (HGM) of the observed data. While the data used can be the estimated radioelement concentrations (potassium, thorium and uranium) or their ratios, we demonstrate that the total count is particularly suited to this type of analysis. The theoretical calculations are supported by an examination of survey data across a series of isolated bodies (offshore islands). This empirical study indicates the practical limits to resolution when using the horizontal gradient and these are governed by the survey line separation. The HGM response provides an enhanced mapping of the edges of zones associated with a contrast in flux behaviour. The edges are detected using the maxima in the response and these can be additionally examined using grid curvature analysis. The technique is assessed using recent survey data containing geological, soil and environmental influences. The results demonstrate the spatially pervasive nature of flux contrasts associated with soil and environmental contributions which potentially mask, or perturb, the underlying bedrock geological response.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0926-9851
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
Date made live: 05 Sep 2016 14:22 +0 (UTC)

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