Multi-Faceted Geophysical Analysis of a Mountain Watershed in the Snowy Range, WY: from Airborne Electromagnetics to NMR

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Ryan S Armstrong1, W Steven Holbrook1, Brady A Flinchum1, Matthew Provart1, Bradley James Carr1, Esben Auken2 and Jesper Bjergsted Pedersen2, (1)University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, United States, (2)Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
Surface/groundwater interactions are an important, but poorly understood, facet of mountain hydrology. We utilize ground electrical resistivity data as a key tool for mapping groundwater pathways and aquifers. However, surface resistivity profiling is limited in both spatial extent and depth, especially in mountainous headwater environments because of inaccessibility and terrain. Because this important groundwater recharge environment is poorly understood, WyCEHG has focused efforts to increase knowledge about the dynamics and location of groundwater recharge. Currently, traditional hydrologic measurements estimate that only 10% of annual snowmelt enters the groundwater system while the rest is immediately available to surface flow. The Wyoming Center for Environmental Hydrology and Geophysics (WyCEHG) collected a 40 sq. km survey of helicopter transient electromagnetic (HTEM) and aeromagnetic data during the fall of 2013 as the first step in a “top down” geophysical characterization of a mountainous headwater catchment in the Snowy Range, Wyoming. Furthermore, mountain springs in the Snowy Range suggests that the “groundwatershed” acts as both a sink and source to surface watersheds. HTEM data show horizontal electrical conductors at depth, which are currently interpreted as fluid-filled subsurface fractures. Because these fractures eventually connect to the surface, they could be geophysical evidence of connectivity between the watershed and “groundwatershed.” However, current HTEM inversion techniques assume a layered homogenous subsurface model, which directly contradicts two characteristics of the Snowy Range: the subvertical bedding of the Cheyenne Belt and heterogeneous distribution of surface water. Ground electrical resistivity surveys and surface nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) measurements collected during the summer of 2014 target these anomalies to determine their validity and further understand the complicated dynamic of surface and groundwater flow.