Advancing process-based watershed hydrological research using near-surface geophysics: A vision for, and review of, electrical and magnetic geophysical methods

D. A. Robinson, A. Binley, N. Crook, F. D. Day-Lewis, T. P.A. Ferré, V. J.S. Grauch, R. Knight, M. Knoll, V. Lakshmi, R. Miller, J. Nyquist, L. Pellerin, K. Singha, L. Slater

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

213 Scopus citations


We want to develop a dialogue between geophysicists and hydrologists interested in synergistically advancing process based watershed research. We identify recent advances in geophysical instrumentation, and provide a vision for the use of electrical and magnetic geophysical instrumentation in watershed scale hydrology. The focus of the paper is to identify instrumentation that could significantly advance this vision for geophysics and hydrology during the next 3-5 years. We acknowledge that this is one of a number of possible ways forward and seek only to offer a relatively narrow and achievable vision. The vision focuses on the measurement of geological structure and identification of flow paths using electrical and magnetic methods. The paper identifies instruments, provides examples of their use, and describes how synergy between measurement and modelling could be achieved. Of specific interest are the airborne systems that can cover large areas and are appropriate for watershed studies. Although airborne geophysics has been around for some time, only in the last few years have systems designed exclusively for hydrological applications begun to emerge. These systems, such as airborne electromagnetic (EM) and transient electromagnetic (TEM), could revolutionize hydrogeological interpretations. Our vision centers on developing nested and cross scale electrical and magnetic measurements that can be used to construct a three-dimensional (3D) electrical or magnetic model of the subsurface in watersheds. The methodological framework assumes a 'top down' approach using airborne methods to identify the large scale, dominant architecture of the subsurface. We recognize that the integration of geophysical measurement methods, and data, into watershed process characterization and modelling can only be achieved through dialogue. Especially, through the development of partnerships between geophysicists and hydrologists, partnerships that explore how the application of geophysics can answer critical hydrological science questions, and conversely provide an understanding of the limitations of geophysical measurements and interpretation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3604-3635
Number of pages32
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number18
StatePublished - Aug 30 2008


  • Airborne
  • Electrical
  • Electromagnetic
  • Geophysics
  • Magnetic
  • Watershed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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