Salinity distribution in heterogeneous coastal aquifers mapped by airborne electromagnetics

Casper Kirkegaard, Torben O. Sonnenborg, Esben Auken, Flemming Jørgensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the hydrologic setting of any given area is a challenging task, especially considering that the amount of available information is often very sparse relative to the size of the area and the complexity of the problem. We used geophysical transient electromagnetic (TEM) data from an airborne Sky TEM instrument to investigate discharge of freshwater from a river catchment into a coastal lagoon area, in support of large-scale hydrologic mapping of the HOBE hydrology research center. Existing hydrologic data indicate possible outflow from the catchment underneath the survey area, a hypothesis that was indeed backed up by our geophysical results. The results revealed a stratified geologic setting frequently incised by buried valleys beneath the lagoon. They also showed that the valleys are saturated with sea water, unlike the layers at the same depth that are probably saturated with brackish water. The salinity decreases with depth in large parts of the lagoon. The salinity distribution in the setting indicates the presence of intricate flow systems beneath the coastal area and the lagoon, and we propose that it is governed by the heterogeneity in the geologic setting. We also demonstrated how water depth as well as salinity can be accurately mapped using Sky TEM in combination with a robust and flexible inversion scheme.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-135
Number of pages11
JournalVadose Zone Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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