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NUMBER 17

FUNDAMENTALS OF

GRAVITY EXPLORATION

Thomas R. LaFehr

Misac N. Nabighian

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ISBN 978-1-56080-298-3 (Volume)

P. O. Box 702740

Tulsa, OK 74170-2740

All rights reserved. This book or parts hereof may not be reproduced in any

form without written permission from the publisher.

Published 2012

Printed in the United States of America

Fundamentals of gravity exploration / Thomas R. LaFehr, Misac N. Nabighian ; Wei Liu,

managing editor ; Edward K. Biegert and Michal Ruder, volume editors.

pages cm. -- (Geophysical monograph series ; no. 17)

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-1-56080-298-3 (volume : alk. paper) -- ISBN 978-0-931830-56-3 (series : alk.

paper)

1. Gravity--Measurement. I. Nabighian, Misac N., author. II. Liu, Wei, 1969- editor. III.

Biegert, Edward K., editor. IV. Ruder, Michal, editor. V. Title.

QB334.L34 2012

526’.7--dc23

2012041177

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Contents

Preface. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi

Acknowledgments. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xiii

Chapter 1: Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Gravitational force. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Gravitational constant . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

Gravitational potential. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

The earth’s gravity field. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

The geoid. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

The standard International Gravity Formula. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

GPS and the geoid. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

of Mass Distributions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

Attraction of a spherical shell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

Components of attraction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

Analysis of potential fields . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

Gravity calculations for simple geometries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

Gravity calculations for 2D geometries. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

The logarithmic potential. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43

Green’s equivalent layer and the problem of ambiguity . . . . . . . . . 44

Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49

Absolute-gravity measurements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49

Relative-gravity instruments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50

v

Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

vi

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Gravity gradiometry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58

Field operations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61

Measurement uncertainty. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64

Ambiguity related to survey design — Aliasing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65

Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67

Typical near-surface rock densities. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67

Density and porosity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70

Constituent densities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72

Methods for deriving, measuring, and evaluating density. . . . . . . . 72

Definition of what causes a gravity anomaly. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78

Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81

Reduction of gravity survey data. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82

Appendix A — Bullard correction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98

and Limitations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101

Purposes of gravity surveys. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101

Gravity calculations for an arbitrary model. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102

The fast-Fourier transform for calculating gravity effects. . . . . . . . 105

Anomaly shape . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109

Anomaly separation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110

Spectral analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118

Depth determination . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125

Determination of anomalous mass. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136

Interpretation of borehole gravity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138

Reservoir monitoring. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140

Appendix A — The unit half-width circle (2D)

and ellipse (3D). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141

Appendix B — Application of Bott and Smith theorems . . . . . . . . 147

Appendix C — Corrections for incomplete integration

using Gauss’ theorem. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150

Appendix D — Borehole-gravity distance/thickness

relationships . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152

Contents vii

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Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157

Density inversion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158

Geometric (boundary) inversion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166

Introduction to interpretation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169

Location of buried features by filtering and/or modeling . . . . . . . . 173

Example of salt with caprock. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175

Examples of seismic pitfalls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177

Example of borehole gravity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180

Borehole gravity in combination with surface gravity. . . . . . . . . . . 181

Integration of seismic and/or magnetic information

with gravity data. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 182

Mining applications. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183

Satellite gravity and satellite-derived gravity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190

References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199

Index. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211

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College of Letters and Science, from the

University of California (Berkeley) in 1958;

an M.Sc. in geophysics from Colorado School

of Mines in 1962 (while working at the U. S.

Geological Survey); and a Ph.D. in geo-

physics from Stanford University in 1964.

He was employed as a geophysicist by Grav-

ity Meter Exploration Company in Hous-

ton from 1964 to 1969. At CSM from 1969

through 1992, LaFehr was an associate,

adjunct, and full professor and George Brown

Professor, taking leaves of absence during

which he was founder, consultant to, president, and chairman of EDCON.

He was also founder, president, chairman, and consultant for LCT. Since

1998, he has been a Distinguished Senior Scientist at Colorado School of

Mines.

LaFehr has published in Geophysics, the Journal of Geophysical Re-

search, the Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, and the Austra-

lian Oil and Gas Journal. He won three awards for best presentation at the

SEG annual meeting, was the SEG distinguished lecturer in 1971 and editor

in 1972–1973, was elected to honorary membership in 1979, was president

in 1983–1984, and received the Maurice Ewing Medal in 1997.

viii

About the Authors ix

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(honors) degree in geophysics in 1955 from

the Institute of Petrol and Gas in Bucharest,

Romania, and a Ph.D. in geophysics in 1967

from Columbia University in New York. He

began his career in Romania in 1955, first as

a party chief and then as an assistant profes-

sor at the Institute of Petrol and Gas. After

obtaining his Ph.D., he was employed by

Newmont Mining to carry out research and

develop new interpretation techniques in

various areas of mining geophysics. During

Nabighian’s tenure at Newmont, he devel-

oped, among others, the concept of the analytic signal for interpreting poten-

tial-field data and the “smoke-ring” concept to help interpret time-domain

electromagnetic methods. He retired from Newmont in 1997 and since then

has been a Distinguished Senior Scientist at Colorado School of Mines.

Nabighian is an honorary member of SEG and was the first recipient of

the Gerald Hohmann Award for excellence in electromagnetics. He was edi-

tor of the two-volume SEG publication Electromagnetic Methods in Applied

Geophysics and editor of the special issue of Geophysics devoted to time-

domain electromagnetic methods. He also served two terms as an associate

editor of Geophysics.

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Preface

of our globe,” wrote W. Heiskanen and F. A. Vening Meinesz in 1958. We

would add that such knowledge is also very important in the study of local

earth features found in mining, petroleum, environmental, and other explo-

ration venues. This book is intended to aid all earth scientists engaged in

such studies.

Where we describe and emphasize analytical techniques, we do so in the

firm conviction that in their understanding lies the basis for future economic

discoveries and that an understanding of the limitations of techniques is as

important as their applicability. As discussed in this book, a rich mathemati-

cal substance is the basis for clearer understanding and innovative explora-

tion tools, but equations do not replace geologic breadth and scope.

No better example of the use of mathematics can be found than the de-

scription of the problem of ambiguity, eloquently described by Green’s iden-

tities. This eloquence, however, would be lost without a thorough grounding

in the acceptable solutions in practical geologic terms.

We have tried separately to acknowledge the uncountable sources from

which this book is derived. Some of our sources, such as our early teachers

and colleagues, living and gone, contributed to the framework with which

we view gravity methods and to our appreciation for their limitations.

Although many such sources will remain unknown to our readers, everyone

can appreciate the concept of community synergism and multiple collabora-

tions. We would therefore like to express our thanks to all those who have

been involved in our small but dynamic discipline.

xi

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Acknowledgments

authors at various times in the Geophysics Department, Colorado School

of Mines (CSM). We felt that a proper balance in presenting the gravity

method can be achieved by combining one author’s experience in the petro-

leum industry (TRL) with the other’s experience in the mining industry

(MNN). The final format of the book, however, was strongly influenced

by the excellent technical editing provided by Ed Biegert from Shell E&P

Technologies and Michal Ruder from Wintermoon Geotechnologies. We are

both extremely grateful for their patience and excellent suggestions and for

providing additional technical material when needed.

We are also indebted to Guy Flanagan of ConocoPhillips, who provided

the satellite gravity data and helped in writing the description of the tech-

nique. The chapter on inversion could not have been written without the

help of Yaoguo Li from CSM, who patiently guided us in streamlining this

important chapter. Mike Thomas from the Geological Survey of Canada,

Jeremy Cook from Newmont, and Jules Lajoie from Comtek Enterprises

Ltd. helped in obtaining some data related to mining applications. Camriel

Coleman, a student at CSM, helped in imaging the Heath Steele Stratmat

magnetic data, and Dionisio Uendro Carlos from Vale Mining Company

helped with sketching an important figure. Mark Ander from Ander Lab-

oratory LLC provided valuable information on various aspects of gravity

instrumentation.

Ed Biegert suggested the inclusion of various summarizing tables in

Chapter 3, and they were modeled after similar tables in the Russian gravity

handbook Gravirazvedka. Some material was extracted, sometimes verba-

tim, from the authors’ paper “Historical development of the gravity method

in exploration” (Nabighian et al., 2005), and as such, special thanks are due

to the other authors of that publication: Mark Ander, Tien Grauch, Richard

Hansen (deceased), Yaoguo Li, William Pearson, John Peirce, Jeff Phillips,

and Michal Ruder. The authors also acknowledge the contributions from

their cumulative experiences at GMX, EDCON, and LCT (TRL) and New-

mont Mining Co. (MNN).

xiii

Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

xiv

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We also thank Ted Bakamjian, Jennifer Cobb, and the rest of the SEG

gang, our longtime friend, Jerry Henry, and our newfound buddy, Rowena

Mills, who ably performed as special editors.

Some of the material in this book is based on innumerable presentations

under the auspices of SEG and AAPG.

Finally, we would be remiss if we failed to acknowledge the enduring

support of our wives, Arlys and Aida, to whom this book is dedicated.

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Chapter 1

Introduction

understanding, and applicability of the gravity exploration method. This

book is intended to be suitable for classroom instruction and as a refer-

ence for anyone engaged in geophysical exploration, including those whose

specialties might be in another discipline but who would benefit from an

understanding of how gravity exploration can help them solve exploration

problems. For many decades, the 1971 SEG book by L. L. Nettleton (Geo-

physical Monograph Series No. 1, Elementary Gravity and Magnetics for

Geologists and Seismologists) has helped to fill this need, but it is limited

in scope (as its title implies) and is, of course, out of date, especially with

respect to modern exploration technology. This little book has been a best

seller, however, and it resides in the libraries of thousands of geologists and

geophysicists. It contains several classical and practical examples of how

the gravity method can be applied, and we have borrowed liberally from

these where they retain their long-held value. In 1995, Richard J. Blakely

published Potential Theory in Gravity and Magnetic Applications. This

book covers in depth much of which the Nettleton monograph lacks: the

principles of potential theory and the mathematical basis for the forward and

inverse techniques of interpretation.

Our book is intended to fill a need that is oriented more toward explo-

ration than the Nettleton monograph or the Blakely book, with more infor-

mation about the underlying principles and technology than the former

and clearer orientation toward the explorationist’s geologic goals than the

latter.

We expect that a relatively small minority of our readers will have an

interest in the mathematical basis that underlies the fundamentals of the

gravity method presented in this book. Readers who are in this minority,

1

2

Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

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direct interest in the mathematics that underlie the gravity method. Nev-

ertheless, they can obtain the basic meaning of the subject matter. Some

explorationists will wish to “read through” the mathematics on first encoun-

ter and then later, at their own pace, study the mathematical basis in depth.

We have not, however, included laborious or copious derivations showing

how solutions to integrals can be derived, relying instead on the excellent

tables of integrals available at most good libraries (e.g., Gradshteyn and

Ryzhik, 1980). The same solutions can also be obtained using modern com-

puter software, which continues to evolve into ever more useful algorithms.

An example of the seeming contradiction of “requiring the mathemat-

ics” without needing it to understand the subject matter is given in the last

section of Chapter 3 (Green’s equivalent layer and the problem of ambigu-

ity). Most readers will feel well justified in skipping over Green’s identities,

but they would miss an important basic element in gravity exploration if

they also chose to ignore the entire section or even the chapter. The impor-

tance of mathematics can be obtained by reading the text. In combination

with the illustrations, the description of the problem of ambiguity gives the

reader an important understanding of how the gravity method should and

should not be applied.

investigation into the existence and behavior of gravity has a long and

distinguished history, starting at least as far back as the famous experiments

of Galileo (1564–1642) in the sixteenth century. Born in the year that Gali-

leo died (1642), Isaac Newton (1642–1727) was the creator of what is now

called classical mechanics or Newtonian physics, which forms the basis for

a rich wealth of mathematics relevant to gravity fields and their potential.

about the time of the Copernican Revolution, when the field of astron-

omy started its journey toward a better understanding of planetary motion,

observers such as Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) laid the groundwork for

Newton and those who followed him. Pierre-Simon, Marquis de Laplace

(1749–1827), wrote his monumental Celestial Mechanics (starting in 1799)

in five volumes, thus creating a very early underpinning to modern gravity

exploration, which began very late in the eighteenth century.

Baron Loránd Eötvös (1848–1919), in addition to his extensive interest

in law and politics, was a pioneer in the embryonic beginnings of mod-

ern gravity exploration, principally by inventing the torsion balance. Much

of the first geophysical exploration work was performed near the Gulf of

Mexico, and the first oil discovery based on geophysics was at the Nash

Dome in Texas following a torsion-balance survey there in 1924.

This book contains nine chapters, starting with this introduction and

ending with geologic applications. To interpret a gravity anomaly in geologic

Chapter 1: Introduction 3

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terms, we must first define it: the difference between the measured value and

the value predicted by a specific earth model. The nature of those measure-

ments, the details of the earth models, and the tools for examining the behav-

ior of gravity fields are the subject of this book. Generally, the specified earth

model (Chapter 6) is a simplification of the actual earth, and the resulting

anomaly field contains both regional and residual effects, the separation of

which remains as part of the interpretation (Chapters 7 through 9). This leads

to a second usage of the term anomaly: a series of values whose departure

from a normal or regional field is caused by the target(s) of interest.

For the student, the chapters are intended to be read in the sequence pre-

sented, and for the practitioner, in whatever order relevant to the exploration

problem at hand.

Chapter 2, “Principles of Attraction and Earth’s Gravity Field,” intro-

duces the reader to Newton’s gravitational force, the notion of potential,

the ellipsoid and the geoid, and the standard International Gravity Formula.

Chapter 3, “The Gravitational Potential and Attraction of Mass Distribu-

tions,” provides a mostly mathematical basis for a variety of mass sources,

along with an understanding of Laplace’s equation and its applicability both

inside and outside general distributions. It concludes, as discussed above,

with a discussion of Green’s equivalent layer and the problem of ambiguity.

Chapter 4, “Field Measurements,” discusses field operations, the acqui-

sition of absolute and relative gravity data, survey design, and the problem

of measurement uncertainty.

Chapter 5, “Rock Density and Gravity Anomalies,” describes typical

near-surface rock densities and how they are affected by porosity and its ten-

dency to decrease with depth owing to compaction. This chapter also treats

the variety of constituent mineralogy and its importance to rock density,

methods for determining density, and — in exploration — the all-important

differences in density.

Chapter 6, “Data Reduction,” recognizes that gravity observations are

strongly influenced by the nature of the field survey and the several environ-

ments that contribute to gravity variations unrelated to the geologic targets

we wish to study. Infield reductions, corrections for changes in elevation,

and the motion of the meter (if located in a moving vehicle, such as a marine

vessel or aircraft) are treated from the practical point of view of the explora-

tionist. The concept of isostasy is also included in Chapter 6.

Chapter 7, “Anomaly Interpretation Guidelines and Limitations,” starts

with the Bouguer anomaly, defined in Chapter 6, and proceeds to develop

the methods for analysis available to the explorationist, including anomaly

separation, depth-estimation rules, anomalous-mass determination, forward

calculations, the fast Fourier transform, and borehole gravity interpretation.

4

Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

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Chapter 7 has four appendices dealing with the unit half-width circle, limit-

ing or maximum possible depth, corrections in the use of Gauss’ theorem,

and borehole gravity distance/thickness relationships. The purpose of the

appendices is to provide more detail without adding to the complexity of

the basic chapter.

Chapter 8, “Inversion,” treats a special subset of interpretation: the con-

struction of a geologic model based on a numerical procedure for which the

residual gravity anomaly is the input data set. Density inversion and geo-

metric boundary inversion are investigated in Chapter 8.

Chapter 9, “Geologic Applications,” covers a variety of important geo-

logic circumstances under which the gravity method has been and contin-

ues to be successful. These include salt structures, caprock, seismic pitfalls,

faults, borehole gravity, integration with seismic and magnetic data, and the

location of buried targets in mining applications.

Our wish is for the beginning student and the geophysicist early in his

or her career to develop an excitement for the technology as well as a firm

understanding of its applicability and limitation in the field of geologic

interpretation. For the seasoned interpreter, we hope the book will find a

place on the bookshelf to which one can turn in seeking answers to gravity

exploration questions.

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Chapter 2

Principles of Attraction

and Earth’s Gravity Field

Gravitational force

Consider two small masses, M0 and M1, whose radii are very small in

comparison with the distance r between the masses (Figure 1). Newton’s

universal law of attraction states that each mass attracts the other by a force

F, whose amplitude F is in direct proportion to the product of their masses

and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them:

M 0 M1

F=k , (1)

r2

in MKS units (i.e., distances measured in meters, mass in kilograms, and

time in seconds) or 6.67 × 10–8 cm3/g.s2 in cgs units (centimeters-grams-

seconds). The force caused by M1 acting at and on M0 is directed along r

toward M1; an equivalent force acting on M1 by M0 also is directed along r

but in the opposite direction, toward M0. The resulting force F is a vector

quantity given by

M 0 M1r

F = –k , (2)

r3

tion toward the causative body. The negative sign is introduced to indicate

that r is measured from the source mass to the point of observation, whereas

the force F is directed in the opposite direction (i.e., toward the source).

5

6

Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

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M1

by distance r, with r̂ the unit vector directed from

F

r gravitational source to the observation point.

v

r

M0

and M1 to be the source mass causing a field at the point of observation.

Newton’s second law states that a body’s acceleration is equal to the ratio of

the force acting on the body to its mass. Denoting the gravitational accelera-

tion with g, we have

F Mr

g= = – k 31 . (3)

M0 r

As Galileo1 observed in 1632 (without the benefit of the inverse square law),

the acceleration of a body is independent of its mass.

In the MKS system of units the gravitational acceleration is measured

in meters per second squared, whereas in the cgs system, it is measured

in centimeters per second squared. The cgs unit of gravitational accelera-

tion is known as a Gal (after Galileo), with 1 Gal = 1 cm/s2. Although only

one part in approximately 980 of the earth’s normal field, the Gal is much

too large for exploration work; hence, the milligal (1 mGal = 10−3 Gal) is

commonly used in surface exploration surveys and the microgal (1 µGal =

10−6 Gal) in borehole gravity work and in 4D gravity surveys (the fourth

dimension being time; see Chapter 9). In the geophysical literature, one also

encounters gravity data given in gravity units (1 g.u. = 0.1 mGal).

Gravitational constant

3

By replacing M1 in equation 1 with the mass of the earth, 4 3 π R ρm, where R

is the radius of the earth and rm is its mean density, we obtain that the product of

the gravitational constant k and the mean density of the earth is given by

3g

kρm = .

4π R

Hall (1963). Galileo’s experiments on acceleration were at least 10 years before

1

Newton’s birth and more than 50 years before the publication of the Principia

Mathematica.

Chapter 2: Earth’s Gravity Field 7

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The earth’s gravity g and its radius R can be measured so that the measure-

ment of either k or rm will lead to the determination of the other. Pierre

Bouguer in 1740 (see chapter 6) led an expedition to Peru (now Ecuador)

to determine arcs of the earth’s curvature at the equator which, although an

indirect requirement in their geodetic work, might have been the earliest

attempt to determine rm. His approach was to measure deviations in the

plumb line as affected by the high mountains in the Andes, but their mea-

surements were influenced strongly by isostatic effects (see chapter 6) that

were unknown at that time.

The earliest attempts to determine the constant k (which as we have seen

above leads to the determination of rm) were conducted in the laboratory by

Henry Cavendish. He used a torsion balance consisting of two small weights

that were deflected by interchanging the positions of two larger weights.

His result of 6.754 × 10−11 m3/kg∙s2 has been improved on in the succeeding

more than 200 years. However, this constant remains poorly determined in

comparison with any other basic physical constant because the gravity field

is much weaker than other fundamental forces.

The value accepted by the geophysical community is 6.67 × 10−11

m3/kg∙s2 or 6.67 × 10−8 cm3/g∙s2 in the cgs system2. For calculations desired

in milligals using length dimensions in kilometers and density in cgs units,

the factor is simply 6.67. For density expressed as kilograms per meter

cubed, the factor is 6.67 × 10−3. Although this value for k results in an aver-

age density for the earth of 5520 kg/m3, which is confirmed by independent3

means, its laboratory determination nonetheless contains a large uncertainty

in comparison with the other physical constants of the universe. However,

this issue is of very little concern in exploration work, as we will examine

in Chapters 6, 7, 8, and 9.

Gravitational potential

From equation 3, it follows that ∇ × g = 0. By Stokes’ theorem, this is

equivalent to g.dr = 0, which is a statement that the work done in moving

a unit mass is independent of the path taken. Such fields are called conser-

vative, and they can be represented as the gradient of a potential U. The

problem being spherically symmetrical for a point mass, we can express the

gradient of the potential in spherical coordinates, to obtain

2Fixler (2007) reports a value of 6.693 × 10−11 with a standard error of the mean

of ± 0.027 × 10−11.

3Verhoogen (1970, p. 617) reports an average earth density of 5517 kg/m3.

8

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∂U 1 ∂U 1 ∂U

g = ∇U = lr + lθ + lϕ,

∂r r ∂θ r sin θ ∂ϕ

where lr, lq , and lj are unit vectors in the r, q, and j directions, respectively.

Because of angular symmetry, the derivatives with respect to q and j vanish,

and this equation reduces to

∂U M

l = – k 2 lr .

∂r r r

M

U=k + C.

r

potential) to vanish at infinity and obtain

M

U=k . (4)

r

we integrate the potential of each elemental mass dm = r dV = r dw dh dV

over the entire volume V (Figure 2):

ρ ( ξ , η , ζ ) d ξ d η dζ

U ( x , y, z ) = k ∫ 1 . (5)

V (ξ – x )2 + ( η – y )2 + (ζ − z )2 2

tions. Surfaces of equal potential are known as equipotential sur-

faces, and the gravitational attraction is always perpendicular to these

surfaces.

The earth is surrounded by its own gravitational field, which exerts

an attractive force on all objects. If the earth were a stationary nonrotat-

ing spherical body, then the strength of its gravitational attraction would

Chapter 2: Earth’s Gravity Field 9

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mass, and inversely proportional to

the square of the distance from the

center of the earth (see “Attraction y

of a spherical shell’’ in Chapter 3). dm ( , , ) = dv P (x,y,z )

The earth, however, is rotating

around its axis, which creates a cen-

trifugal force at every point on its

surface, being largest at the equa-

tor (about 3.4 Gal) and decreasing

toward zero as we approach the

poles (Figure 3). Thus, as a result

of rotation, the earth’s gravity field

will decrease from poles to the

equator.

The rotational potential caused z

by the centrifugal force is given by

Heiskanen and Moritz (1967) as Figure 2. Calculation of gravitational

potential at an exterior point P for

an arbitrary 3D body located in a

2 w2 r2, Cartesian-coordinate system.

where w is the angular velocity (7.292 × 10−5 rad/s) and r is the axial radius

shown in Figure 3. The maximum centrifugal force is less than 1/300 of earth’s

gravitational attraction.

The effect of the rotating earth, in addition to the centrifugal force,

results also in a flattening of the earth, with the final result being that the

earth now has a spheroidal shape (Figure 3). The equatorial radius of the

earth is Re = 6378.160 km, whereas the polar radius is Rp = 6356.775 km,

resulting in a flattening f given by

Re – Rp 1

f= = .

Re 298.257

Because of the difference between the polar and equatorial radii, it fol-

lows from equation 1 that the spheroidal earth will yield a larger gravi-

tational attraction at the poles compared with the equator. The combined

centrifugal force and flattening effects result in a difference of approxi-

mately 5.3 Gal between observation points at the equator and poles.

10

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The geoid

As mentioned above, the earth’s gravi-

tational field is normal to an equipotential

r

surface and defines the vertical at any loca-

P

F

tion. An equipotential surface of particular

g

interest is the one that coincides exactly

a

with the mean ocean surface of the earth

(assuming there are no tides or ocean cur-

rents) and extended through the continents

(such as with very narrow canals). The fact

that the mean ocean surface of the earth is an

equipotential surface for the earth’s gravita-

tional field can be explained by the fact that

Figure 3. The gravitational if this were not the case, then one would

force F from a nonrotating have a horizontal component of the earth’s

earth and the centrifugal force P gravitational field acting on the ocean water

combine to yield the observed and creating a gravitational current which

gravitational force g. is known not to exist (as opposed to known

ocean currents, e.g., the Gulf Stream).

This equipotential surface is known as the geoid, and it plays an important

role in gravity exploration (Figure 4). If we imagine a uniform rotating earth

(with oceans filled with rocks that have the same density as the continents and

the continents leveled to sea level), we would view an oblate ellipsoid, described

in the previous section and sometimes referred to as the spheroid. For such a uni-

form earth, the geoid and ellipsoid would be identical. The ellipsoid (or spheroid)

is an imaginary surface because the earth is irregular. The geoid departs from the

ellipsoid by dropping below it in oceans where seawater is less dense than the

rocks and by rising above it in continents where the mass per unit area increases.

The geoid is in essence an equipotential surface of the actual gravita-

tional field. The geoid is an irregular surface influenced by the underlying

masses. In the vicinity of a local excess mass which adds a potential ΔU to

the normal earth’s potential, the surface must warp outward to keep the total

potential constant (Figure 5).

Because of its complexity, the geoid is approximated by a rotating

oblate spheroidal surface of uniform density which, being very similar in

shape to an ellipsoid of revolution, is called the reference ellipsoid. The dif-

ference in height between the geoid and reference ellipsoid at most localities

is less than 50 m, with some exceptions. The gravitational field of the refer-

ence ellipsoid is known as normal or theoretical gravity and is used for the

computation of the gravity anomaly by removing the effect caused by the

earth’s oblateness and centrifugal acceleration.

Chapter 2: Earth’s Gravity Field 11

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Plumb line

Topography

Ellipsoid

Sea bottom

Figure 4. The geoid and the reference ellipsoid in relation to the earth’s

topography. The geoid coincides with the mean sea level and is an irregular

surface. The deflection of the vertical d is the local difference between the true

zenith (plumb line) and the theoretical vertical direction on a global ellipsoid.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, increasing numbers of

measurements and international cooperation led to the so-called standard for-

mulas developed by and for geodesists but also used in exploration, relating

theoretical (or “normal”) gravity g to the latitude j of the station (in Gals):

1 + 0.00193185138639 sin 2 ϕ

1980: g = 978.03267714 ,

1 – 0.00669437999013 sin ϕ

2

where the first two formulas are approximations and the last formula is

known as Somigliana’s equation, giving the theoretical gravity over the

reference ellipsoid. Note that the first term in the right-hand side of all the

equations is the value of the gravity field of the earth at the equator in Gals

(Geodetic Reference System, 1967).

12

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Geoid

the geoid is warped upward If the disturbing mass is negative,

(as shown). the geoid is warped downward

(as in the case of the oceans).

Most of the more than 10 million gravity stations acquired during this

period have been reduced using the 1930 formula (accepted by the Inter-

national Union of Geodesy and Geophysics meeting at Stockholm). The

formula was based on pendulum measurements taken in 1906 in Potsdam

which are believed to be in error by about 14 mGal. The differences between

the formulas are not important in exploration because the useful signal

we interpret is itself relative within a survey. It is important, however, that

we use the same formula for each survey when, as is often the case, multiple

surveys are integrated in a region. As we will see in chapter 6, the theoreti-

cal gravity is subtracted from the observed station gravity, a process known

as latitude correction. In the first several decades in the modern exploration

era, tables were created based on the 1930 formula, from which the latitude

correction could be determined for each field station. In modern explora-

tion, the value of theoretical (or normal) gravity is computed and removed,

usually by field computers.

The heights obtained from GPS are typically heights above the refer-

ence ellipsoid. At least four GPS NAVSTAR satellites are used to deter-

mine three position coordinates and time. The position coordinates x, y, z

are geodetic coordinates (datum WGS-84) latitude, longitude and height h

above the reference ellipsoid (Figure 6). The height displayed on most con-

sumer handheld GPS receivers is, however, the orthometric height H, the

height above mean sea level (MSL) and the only one of interest in explora-

tion. Orthometric heights are thus the vertical distance from the geoid to

the surface of the earth and, by convention, the sign is considered positive

Chapter 2: Earth’s Gravity Field 13

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GPS

H

h Topography

Geoid N

Ellipsoid

Ellipsoid

Oceans Topography

height h above the reference ellipsoid obtained by the GPS receiver the tabulated

ellipsoid-geoid separation height N.

from a geoid-ellipsoid height separation model N (a lookup table in the

receiver’s firmware) and making the simple calculation of adding it to the

obtained height above the reference ellipsoid. Geoid-ellipsoid separation

heights in the conterminous United States range from about −8 m to −53 m,

and they display considerable variation in the mountains. By contrast, glob-

ally geoid-ellipsoid separation heights range from about +75 m to −100 m.

The geoid model for the earth is continuously refined. Different geoid

models will give different orthometric heights for a point, even though the

ellipsoid height (determined by GPS) might be very accurate. Therefore,

orthometric height should never be given without also stating the geoid

model used.

Although the orthometric height is the one commonly used in gravity

exploration, some geophysicists propose instead to use the height above the

ellipsoid. The main reason is that both latitude-correction estimates by the

International Gravity Formula and free-air correction estimates (see chapter

6) are designed to remove the gravity effects resulting from an ellipsoid of

revolution which can be calculated theoretically. In exploration for petro-

leum and for other minerals, the difference between the two approaches is

minimal because the geoid is a smooth surface. A global map of the geoid-

reference ellipsoid separation N is shown in Figure 7.

14

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Figure 7. Undulations of the geoid. Values indicate the height in meters above

or below the surface that is very close to an ellipsoid of flattening 1/298.3. after

Guier and Newton (1965), Figure 1. used by permission.

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Chapter 3

Attraction of Mass Distributions

and found that it can be derived from a scalar potential U. Based on these

definitions, we now investigate the gravitational attraction of a number of

mass distributions and derive some important consequences.

In Chapter 2, we found that to calculate the potential at an exterior point P

for an arbitrary 3D body, we have to integrate the potential of each elemen-

tal mass dm = r dV = r dw dh dζ over the entire volume V (equation 5 of

Chapter 2):

r (ξ , η,ζ ) dξ dη dζ

U ( x , y, z ) = k ∫ 1 .

V

(ξ − x ) + (η − y) + (ζ − z )

2 2 2 2

ations. For example, suppose we would like to know the attraction at an

external point P of a hollow spherical shell that has a uniform surface den-

sity s and radius a (Figure 1).

By using the potential from equation 4 of Chapter 2 and noting that

a very small element of mass dm located on the shell is equal to s ds, we

obtain

ds

U = ks ∫ ,

S

h

where the integration is carried out over surface S of the shell.

15

16

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spherical shell.

dθ Uniform surface density

mass per unit area equals σ.

a

θ gr

r P

Spherical

shell

coordinates, one obtains for points exterior to the shell (r > a)

p 2p p

a 2 sin q dq dϕ n q dq

sin

U = ks ∫ ∫ = 2 p ks a 2 ∫

0 0 r + a − 2 a r cos q

2 2

0 r + a 2 − 2 a r cos q

2

2p k s a p 2 p ks a 4 p k s a2

= r 2 + a 2 − 2 a r cos q = [(r + a) − (r − a)] = .

r 0 r r

(1)

write the potential at an exterior point as

M

U ext = k . (2)

r

From equation 2, because of symmetry, the gravitational attraction of the

spherical shell is oriented along r and can be obtained by taking the deriva-

tive of its potential with respect to r:

∂U M

gr = = −k 2 . (3)

∂r r

The obtained result demonstrates the nice property that the attraction of

a uniform spherical shell at an external point is the same as it would be if all

the mass of the shell were concentrated at the point in its center. Hence, for a

uniform solid sphere made up of concentric uniform shells, its attraction at

an external point would be the same as if all its mass were concentrated at its

center. To appreciate the elegance and simplicity of this approach, one can

attempt the determination of the gravitational attraction of the shell directly

without recourse to its potential.

Chapter 3: The Gravitational Potential 17

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The same procedure can be used if the field point is inside the spherical

shell. In this case, in expression 1, we have (for a > r)

p

r 2 + a 2 − 2 a r cos q = (a + r ) − (a − r ) = 2 r

0

(independent of r) equal to

M

U int = k . (4)

a

found by taking the derivative of the potential) is everywhere equal to zero.

At an internal point of a uniform solid sphere, the attraction is a function

only of the part of the solid sphere between the respective point and the

center of the sphere. Similarly to the shell, the portion of the solid sphere

between the point of observation and the outer radius of the sphere would

exert no attraction at the interior field point.

Let us now calculate the potential at an interior point of a spherical shell

of variable finite thickness a – r, extending from an interior radius r to an

exterior radius a. From equation 4, the potential at the interior point of a

spherical shell of radius r is constant and is equal to

M 4p r2 s

u=k =k = 4 p k s r.

r r

To obtain the potential of the thick spherical shell, we integrate this expres-

sion over r. By noting that s = r dr, where r is the volume density, we obtain

a

a2 r 2

U = 4 p k r ∫ r dr = 4 p k r ( − ) = 2 p k r (a 2 − r 2 ), (5)

r

2 2

A study of the gravitational potential is valuable as a general basis for

developing techniques for data reduction and interpretation, as we will

see in later sections of this chapter and in the following chapters of this

book.

18

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Components of attraction

Generally, we do not make measurements in the direction of the source

masses (this direction, for extended bodies, varies over a survey area), but rather,

we measure a component of the observed field. In a Cartesian-coordinate

system (Figure 2), the potential at the point P resulting from mass m is given by

equation 4 of Chapter 2:

m

U=k ,

r

where r 2 = ( x − ξ )2 + ( y − η)2 + ( z − ζ )2 .

Because

∂U ∂U ∂U

g = ∇U = i +j +k ,

∂x ∂y ∂z

the components of attraction in this coordinate system are

∂U m

gx = = − k 3 ( x − ξ ),

∂x r

∂U m

gy = = − k 3 ( y − η),

∂y r

∂U m

gz = = − k 3 ( z − ζ ). (6)

∂z r

The above expressions can be written in a compact form as

∂U x − ξ

∂x r

gx

∂U m y − η

g = gy = = − k , (6a)

∂y r2 r

g

∂U z −ζ

z

r

∂z

with the terms in the last bracket representing the direction cosines between

the total gravitational attraction and the coordinate axes.

Let us examine these components of attraction at a point P, which is

above a horizontal uniform sheet or lamina of infinite extent in all directions

(Figure 3). By symmetry, the horizontal x- and y-components of g are zero,

and we have only the gz-component, which is measured predominantly in

modern exploration work.

Chapter 3: The Gravitational Potential 19

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γ P (x, y, z )

r

β

m(ξ, η, ζ )

vector and its direction cosines; a, b, and g are the angles the vector makes with respect

to the x-, y-, and z-axes. The cosines of these angles are known as direction cosines.

over the surface S of the sheet:

cos a dm

gz = k ∫ .

S

r2

cos a dS

gz = ks ∫ .

S

r2

The last integrand above is the solid-angle1 element dw subtended by

dS at P (Figure 4). For an infinite plane, the solid angle varies from 0 to 2p,

A solid angle is the extension to three dimensions of the concept of radian in two

1

dimensions. An angle in radians is given by L/r, where L is the arc length subtend-

ing the angle and r is the radius of the circle. A solid angle is that fraction S of

the surface of a sphere that a particular object projects on, as seen by an observer

located at the center of the sphere. The numerical value of the solid angle is S/r2 and

is given in steradians, a dimensionless quantity. For a sphere whose total surface

area is 4p r2, the solid angle is 4p steradians.

20

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2p

gz = k s ∫ dw = 2p ks .

0

(7)

If the infinite sheet has thickness t, we note that s = r t (where r is the vol-

ume density), and we obtain the well-known Bouguer plate or Bouguer slab

formula

gz = 2 p k r t , (8)

P

x

gz

α

r

h

∞

∞ ds

∞

∞ z

Figure 3. An infinite thin rectangular plate or lamina at depth h and with constant

surface density s.

α

angle. S

dS

dω

P

Chapter 3: The Gravitational Potential 21

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Gauss’ theorem

by the surface S, as shown in Figure 5. A source mass m, located at point P,

will produce a small flux dϕ across an elemental surface ds:

m

dϕ = g ⋅ dS = k lr ⋅ n dS , (9)

r2

where lr is the unit vector along the direction of gravitational attraction g

produced by this mass and n is the normal to surface S. The amount of

flux across dS is proportional to the small solid angle dw and is either

+ m k dw or − m k dw , depending on whether the field exits or enters the

bounded space.

For a mass located inside the surface S (such as at P), the solid-angle

cone exits the region R one more time than it enters and the net flux is

− m k dw because the gravitational attraction produced by these masses is

n

Q dω g

R

S

g dω P

n

22

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whole surface S, we obtain a complete solid angle of 4p, and the total flux

resulting from mass m becomes

ϕ = −4 p k m.

located inside surface S:

ϕ = −4 p k M. (10)

ϕ= ∫ g ⋅ n dS = ∫ g n dS = −4 p k M , (11)

S S

the normal component of gravity on the surface S. This is an extremely use-

ful theorem. It tells us that there is at least one unique piece of information

that a gravity anomaly can supply, namely, the amount of disturbing mass.

We make use of this theorem in the practical estimation of total mass in

Chapter 7, on interpretation. Gauss’ theorem is also useful for studying the

attraction of a few very simple models, such as the uniform sphere, cylinder,

and infinite slab or plate.

For masses located outside surface S, such as at a point Q in Figure 5,

the number of solid-angle entries is equal to the number of exits, and the net

flux through surface S is zero, or ϕ = 0 .

ϕ= ∫ g ⋅ n dS = ∫ ∇⋅ g dV = −4 p k ∫ r dV .

S V V

∫ ∇ U dV = −4 p k ∫ r dV ,

2

V V

2

Chapter 3: The Gravitational Potential 23

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∇ 2U = −4 p k r. (12)

This is known as Poisson’s equation. At points of free space outside the

source region (r = 0), equation 12 reduces to

∇ 2 U = 0, (13)

which is known as Laplace’s equation.

It is easy to show that a vector field derived from a potential U that satis-

fies Laplace’s equation has both the curl and the divergence equal to zero.

Indeed, if we assume that A = ∇U, then it follows that ∇ × A = 0. Finally,

using ∇ ⋅ A = ∇ ⋅ ∇U = ∇ 2U = 0 completes the proof.

Let us examine Laplace’s equation in a Cartesian-coordinate system

when

∂ 2U ∂ 2U ∂ 2U

∇ 2U = + + .

∂ x 2 ∂ y2 ∂ z 2

1

expression 5 of Chapter 2. Letting r = (ξ − x )2 + (η − y)2 + (ζ − z )2 2 in

expression 5 of Chapter 2, we have

∂ 1 x−ξ

=− 3 ,

∂ x r r

∂ 2 1 3 ( x − ξ )2 1

= − 3

∂ x2 r r5 r

and similar expression for the derivatives along the y- and z-directions. It

immediately follows, by adding corresponding terms, that

∇ 2 U = 0,

and Laplace’s equation holds for points located outside sources.

Now we consider the case for a point P located inside the mass source,

as shown in Figure 6. First we describe a very small sphere, radius e, inside

which P is located. The radius e is so small that the density of the small

sphere can be regarded as constant. Let U1 denote the potential resulting

from the mass outside the little sphere, and let U2 denote the potential result-

ing from the mass inside the little sphere. Now U = U1 + U2. By equation

13, ∇ 2 U1 = 0 .

24

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located inside the mass.

ε

r

P (x, y, z)

To evaluate U2, we will derive the potential and the gravitational attrac-

tion at a point r inside the small sphere. The problem simplifies if we con-

sider the potential U2 to be composed of two parts. Let u1 denote the potential

resulting from the spherical shell contained between r and e, and let u2

denote the potential resulting from the remaining sphere of radius r. The

potential u2 for a sphere of mass m and radius r is given by

4 3

pr kr

m 3 4

u2 = k = = p r2 k r.

r r 3

u1 = 2 p k r (ε 2 − r 2 ).

The potential U2, resulting from the mass inside the little sphere, is now given

by

2p k r

U 2 = u1 + u2 = (3ε 2 − r 2 ), (14)

3

from which

∂ U2 4p k r ∂ r 4p k r x

=− r =− ,

∂x 3 ∂x 3

∂ 2 U2 4p k r

=− ,

∂x 2

3

∂ 2 U2 4p k r

=− ,

∂y 2

3

∂ 2 U2 4p k r

=− ,

∂z 2

3

Chapter 3: The Gravitational Potential 25

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The gravity meter (Chapter 4) is a very sophisticated weighing device.

It weighs in the direction of the plumb line that we call the vertical, which

is affected by the source masses under study. This effect is known as the

deflection of the vertical (defined in Chapter 2), which we will consider

again in Chapter 6. It is sufficient for present purposes to note that we are

interested primarily in the vertical component of gravity while considering

various geometric models.

The general form for calculating the vertical component of gravity

(1) decomposes the source distribution into small elements of mass dm

(Figure 7); (2) calculates, using Newton’s inverse square law, the gravi-

tational attraction caused by the mass dm in the direction, r, to the

observation point; and then (3) multiplies the result by the cosine of the

angle between the direction r and the vertical axis z, which is given by

(z – z)/r. With dm = rdV and with volume dimensions of dx, dh′ , and dz,

the general form for the vertical component of attraction in the 3D case

becomes

d 1 r (ξ , η,ζ )(ζ − z ) dξ dη dζ

gz ( x , y, z ) = k ∫ r dV = k ∫ , (15)

dz r

3

(ξ − x ) + (η − y) + (ζ − z )

V V 2 2 2 2

over the volume V of the body. Note that the above expression is nothing

more than the derivative in the z-direction of the expression for the potential

given in equation 5 of Chapter 2, i.e., gz = ∂U/∂z = Uz.

In the above integral (equation 15) and in equation 5 of Chapter 2, if

density r is constant, it can be taken outside the integral. In general, density

r is not constant (e.g., densities of sands and shales generally increase with

depth of burial because of compaction), and in such cases, r must remain

under the integral sign.

In gravity gradiometry (Chapter 4), one also measures the second-

∂ 2U

derivative terms of the gravitational potential. Letting U xy = and simi-

∂x ∂y

larly for other variables, the corresponding expressions are given in Table 1.3

3In this book, we will use both notations interchangeably, e.g., Uxy and gxy.

26

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P (x, y, z)

dm (ξ, η, ζ ) = ρdv

r

Plumb-bob direction

z

Figure 7. Gravitational attraction of an arbitrary 3D body in a Cartesian system.

given the density and geometry of the causative source, we can calculate

uniquely its gravity potential and its gravity anomaly, both of which van-

ish at infinity. We call this the forward calculation, or the forward prob-

lem. However, equation 5 of Chapter 2 and equation 15 of this chapter

also show that in the absence of information about density and geometry,

an observed gravity anomaly cannot be satisfied uniquely. We call this

the inverse problem and will return to it at the end of this chapter and in

Chapter 7.

The vertical component of gravity can be calculated in two ways:

1) Calculate first the potential using equation 5 of Chapter 2 and then differ

entiate with respect to z, the vertical axis.

2) Calculate the vertical component of attraction directly using expression

15 of this chapter or, in special cases, by using Gauss’ theorem. However,

such calculations can be carried out analytically for only a few simple

bodies.

Chapter 3: The Gravitational Potential 27

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Function Formula

r (ξ , η, ζ ) dξ dη dζ

U k∫ 1

(ξ − x ) + (η − y) + (ζ − z )

V 2 2 2 2

(ζ − z ) r (ξ , η, ζ ) d ξ d η dζ

Uz k∫ 3

(ξ − x ) + (η − y) + (ζ − z )

V 2 2 2 2

( ξ − x ) r (ξ , η, ζ ) dξ dη dζ

Ux k∫ 3

(ξ − x ) + (η − y) + (ζ − z )

V 2 2 2 2

(ξ − x )(η − y) r (ξ , η, ζ ) dξ dη dζ

Uxy 3k ∫ 5

(ξ − x ) + (η − y) + (ζ − z )

V 2 2 2 2

(ξ − x )(ζ − z ) r (ξ , η, ζ ) dξ dη dζ

Uxz 3k ∫ 5

(ξ − x ) + (η − y) + (ζ − z )

V 2 2 2 2

(η − y)(ζ − z ) r (ξ , η, ζ ) dξ dη dζ

Uyz 3k ∫ 5

V

(ξ − x )2 + (η − y)2 + (ζ − z )2 2

2(ξ − x )2 − (η − y)2 − (ζ − z )2 ( r (ξ , η, ζ ) dξ dη dζ

Uxx k∫ 5

V

(ξ − x )2 + (η − y)2 + (ζ − z )2 2

2(ζ − z )2 − (ξ − x )2 − (η − y)2 ( r (ξ , η, ζ ) dξ dη dζ

Uzz k∫ 5

V

(ξ − x )2 + (η − y)2 + (ζ − z )2 2

Sphere

We saw previously that the potential at an external point P(x, y, z), result-

ing from a sphere with its center at a depth h, is the same as if all its mass

were concentrated at its center:

M

U=k ,

R

where R 2 = x 2 + y 2 + (h − z )2. To obtain the gravitational attraction, we dif-

ferentiate with respect to z to obtain (for z = 0)

28

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Mh

gz = k 3 . (16)

(x + y + h )

2 2 2 2

Some of the properties of the sphere anomaly and its higher-order deriva-

tives are given in Table 2 and are sketched in Figure 8.

ple, as we saw in Figure 3, if the depth extent (thickness) of the body is very

small with respect to its depth, we might consider its surface density (mass

per unit area) rather than a volume density. If its cross-sectional area is very

small, we might consider its lineal density (mass per unit length). Thus, the

number of required integrations is problem dependent.

We start with the horizontal thin rectangular plate shown in Figure 9,

for which we wish to know its vertical component of attraction gz. The

plate is at a constant depth h and extends along the x-axis from –a to +a and

along the y-axis from –b to +b, as shown in Figure 9. By dividing the plate

Location Maximum Depth to

of maxima (minimum) center of

Function Formula (minima)5 value sphere6

Uz kM

h x max = 0 max = kM h = ± 1.305 x1 / 2

3

h2

(x + y + h )

2 2 2 2

hx kM

Uxz −3 k M 5 x max = − h/2 max = +0.858 —

h3

(x + y + h )

2 2 2 2

x min = + h/2

kM

min = − 0.858 3

h

2 h2 − x 2 − y2 2 kM

Uzz kM 5

x max = 0 max = —

h3

( x 2 + y2 + h ) 2 2 x min = ± 2h

kM

min = − 0.036

h3

6 Depth h is expressed as a function of abscissa x1 / 2, where the amplitude is half its maximum value.

Chapter 3: The Gravitational Potential 29

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at arbitrary scales

1.0 of gz , gxz,, and gzz

gz

for a sphere.

0.8

0.6

0.4

0.2

gzz

gxz

0.0

–40 –30 –20 –10 0 10 20 30 40

–0.2 Sphere

component as

h dξ dη

a b

gz = k s ∫∫ 3 .

(ξ − x ) + (η − y) + h

−a −b 2 2 2 2

a− x b− y

h du dv

gz = k s ∫ ∫ 3 .

−a− x −b− y

(u 2

+v +h2

)

2 2

First we will integrate the integral with respect to u and then with respect

to v, and we will include the integration limits only at the end. Using Grad-

shteyn and Ryzhik (1980, p. 86, formula 2.271.5), we obtain, after integrat-

ing over u,

dv

gz = k s h u ∫ 1 .

( v + h )(u + v + h )

2 2 2 2 2 2

30

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plate or lamina with constant

surface density s. (x, y, 0)

h gz

–a +a

r

–b

dm = ds = d d

+b

This integral can now be solved using Gradshteyn and Ryzhik (1980,

p. 89, formula 2.284) to yield

a− x b− x

uv

gz = k s tan −1 . (17)

h u + v 2 + h2

2

−a− x −b− x

above expression reduces to

a−x a+x

gz = 2 k s (tan −1 + tan −1 ). (17a)

h h

Note that if we allow the sheet to become infinite in all directions (a → ∞

and b → ∞), we obtain

gz = 2p k s ,

in the chapter on interpretation (Chapter 7).

carried out more easily if we first derive the gravitational attraction of a

circular lamina of radius a located at a depth V below the surface (Figure

10a). For an observation point P(0, 0, –z) situated along the lamina axis, we

obtain, after integrating first over j and then over r,

Chapter 3: The Gravitational Potential 31

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a) P (0, 0, –z ) b) P (0, 0, –z )

Surface (z = 0) Surface (z = 0)

h1

ζ a

r

a

h2

Figure 10. Calculation of the gravitational attraction along the axis of a circular

lamina and a vertical cylinder. Both have a radius a, and the vertical cylinder has a

finite depth extent (h2 − h1).

a

2p a

( z + ζ ) r dr dϕ 1

gz = k r ∫∫ 3 = 2p k r ( z + ζ ) − 1 =

0 r 2 + ( z + ζ )2 2

0 r 2 + ( z + ζ )2 2

0

1 1 z +ζ

= 2p k r ( z + ζ ) z + ζ − 2 2 2

1 = 2p k r 1 − 2 1 .

a + ( z + ζ ) a + ( z + ζ )

2 2

depth extent, we have to integrate the above expression with respect to V

from h1 to h2 (Figure 10b) to obtain

outside the z-axis also can be obtained (Nabighian, 1962). For an infinite

circular cylinder of radius a with top at a depth h, the gravitational attraction

at a point P(x, 0, 0) is given by

32

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1 − x2 p

gz = 2 k r a K ( k ) + (1 + x )2 + a 2 E ( k ) + a Λ0 (ϕ , k ) − pa ,

(1 + x ) + a

2 2

2

(18a)

where a = h/a, K(k) and E(k) are complete elliptic integrals of the first and

second kind, Λ 0 (ϕ , k ) is the Heumann lambda function7,

4x a

k2 = , and sin ϕ = .

(1 + x )2 + a 2 (1 − x )2 + a 2

For x = 0, the above expression reduces to

gz = 2p k r ( a2 + h2 − h , )

which is the well-known expression of the gravitational attraction on

the axis of the cylinder. For a = 0 (outcropping cylinder), equation18a

reduces to

gz = 2 k ra [ (1 − x ) K ( k ) + (1 + x ) E ( k ) ] . (18b)

be obtained by subtracting two infinite cylinders.

(Figure 11), one has to solve the following triple integral for the vertical

component of attraction,

a b h2

ζ dξ dη dζ

gz = k r ∫ ∫∫ 3 ,

( x − ξ ) + ( y − η) + ζ

− a − b h1 2 2 2 2

Letting u = x − x and v = η – y, we can write

a− x b − x h2

ζ du dv dζ

gz = k r ∫ ∫ ∫ 3 .

− a − x − b − x h1

(u + v + ζ )

2 2 2 2

7

grals of the first and second kinds plus Jacobi’s zeta function.

Chapter 3: The Gravitational Potential 33

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P (x, y, 0)

gz

–a +a

–b

h1

y

h2

+b

z

Figure 11. Vertical prism with dimensions 2a and 2b and height (h2 – h1).

Again, we will first carry out the integration and apply the integration lim-

its only to the final result. The integration over V is straightforward to yield

du dv

gz = − k r ∫ ∫ .

u + v2 + ζ 2

2

2.271.4) to obtain

gz = − k r ∫ ln ( v + u 2 + v 2 + ζ 2 ) du.

On integrating by parts,

u u

gz = − k r u ln ( v + u + v + ζ ) −

2 2 2

∫v+ du .

u + v +ζ

2 2 2

u + v +ζ

2

2 2

To evaluate the integral in the above expression, we can write it in the form

34

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u u u 2 ( u 2 + v 2 + ζ 2 − v)

I = ∫v+ (u 2 + v 2 + ζ 2 ) u2 + v 2 + ζ 2

du = ∫ (u 2

+ ζ 2 ) u2 + v 2 + ζ 2

du =

u 2 du (u 2 + ζ 2 − ζ 2 ) du

∫ u 2 + ζ 2 ∫ (u 2 + ζ 2 ) u2 + v 2 + ζ 2 =

− v

(u 2 + ζ 2 − ζ 2 ) du du du

∫ u2 + ζ 2

− v∫

u + v +ζ

2 2 2

+ vζ 2 ∫

(u + ζ ) u 2 + v 2 + ζ 2

2 2

.

The first two integrations are straightforward, and for the last integral, we

use Gradshteyn and Ryzhik (1980, p. 89, formula 2.284) to obtain

u v u

I = u − ζ tan −1 − v ln (u + u 2 + v 2 + ζ 2 ) + ζ tan −1 .

ζ ζ u + v 2 + ζ 2

2

When applying the limits from –b to +b for the variable v, the variable

u in the equation above will cancel. After collecting all terms and reverting

to the original variables, we finally obtain the gravitational attraction of a

truncated prism as

gz = − k r [ (ξ − x ) ln (η − y + R) + (η − y) ln (ξ − x + R)

ξ−x

−1 η − yξ − x a b h2

+ ζ tann − ζ tan −1 , (19)

ζ ζ R −a −b

h1

where R 2 = ( x − ξ )2 + ( y − η)2 + ζ 2.

It is not difficult to see that although many simple geometries yield

closed-form or “exact” solutions to either equation 5 of Chapter 2 or equa-

tion 15 of this chapter, more complex simulations of the geology can be

solved only numerically. However, we should keep in mind that all such

models are fictitious in the sense that the actual geology does not behave

with densities and geometric boundaries everywhere constant. Regardless,

it is not uncommon to approximate a given geologic feature by the super-

position of multiple simple geometric bodies, a subject to be examined in

Chapter 7.

If we can approximate the geology by assuming that its strike length

(distance along the y-axis in Figure 7) is extremely large in comparison with

Chapter 3: The Gravitational Potential 35

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the other dimensions and that the density in that direction does not change,

the integral with respect to y in equation 15 could be taken first to large (but

finite) limits in both negative and positive directions and then examined as

those large limits approach infinity.

be calculated by using either equation 5 of Chapter 2 or equation 15 of this

chapter. However, the solution is easier to obtain using Gauss’ theorem, as

depicted in Figure 12.

By placing a Gaussian cylindrical surface of radius r, concentric with

the uniform cylinder of radius R, we note, by symmetry, that the gravity

attraction gr is constant on that surface and is directed toward the centerline

of the cylinder. By Gauss’ theorem,

1 1

M=

4p k ∫ g ⋅ n dS = 4 p k S ⋅ g .

S

r

For a given length L, the cylinder mass is M = p R2r L, and the Gaussian surface

M 1 R2 r

area is S = 2πrL. With = , one obtains from above

S 2 r

M 2 k p R2 r 2 k λ

gr = 4 p k = = ,

S r r

where λ = p R 2 r is the mass per unit length of the cylinder and r > R. We

normally measure the vertical component of gravity gz to yield

S = 2πrL gr gz infinite cylinder surrounded by a

Gaussian surface.

r

Uniform cylinder

36

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h

gz = 2 k p R 2 r , (20)

x +h

2 2

where x and h are the horizontal and vertical distances, respectively, of the

observation point with respect to the center of the cylinder. Some of the

properties of the infinite horizontal cylinder anomaly and its higher-order

derivatives are given in Table 3 and are sketched in Figure 13.

For the case in which the cylinder degenerates to an infinite line

mass of mass per unit length equal to λ = π R2ρ, the above expression

reduces to

h

gz = 2 k λ . (21)

x + h2

2

Chapter 7.

To obtain the gravitational attraction for the case of the infinite horizon-

tal prism (Figure 14), one has to solve the following triple integral for the

Location of Depth to

maxima Maximum center of

Function Formula (minima) (minimum) value cylinder8

h 1

Uz 2 p kR 2 r 2 x max = 0 max = 2p k R 2 r h = ± x1 / 2

x + h2 h

xh 1

x max = − 0.577 h max = + 1.3 p kR r 2

2

Uxz − 4p k R 2 r

(x + h )

2 2 2 h

x min = + 0.577 h 1

min = − 1.3 p kR 2 r 2

h

h2 − x 2 2p kR 2 r

Uzz 2 p k R2 r x max = 0 max =

( x 2 + h 2 )2 h2

x min = ± 1.732 h

p kR 2 r

min = −

4h2

8Depth h is expressed as a function of abscissa x1 / 2 , where the amplitude is half its maximum value.

Chapter 3: The Gravitational Potential 37

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∞ h2

ζ dξ dη dζ

b

gz = k r ∫ ∫∫ 3 .

a −∞ h1 ( x − ξ ) + ( y − η) + ζ

2 2 2 2

The integrations can be carried out using the expressions derived for the

vertical prismatic body (see the subsection titled “Vertical prism of the finite

at arbitrary scales

1.0 of gz, gxz, and gzz

for an infinite

horizontal cylinder.

0.8 gz

0.6

0.4

gzz

0.2

0.0

–40 –30 –20 –10 0 10 20 30 40

gxz

–0.2

–0.4 Cylinder

x prism of width 2b and height (h2 – h1).

gz

h1

h2

z

38

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x−a b−x x−a

gz = 2 k s ς (tan

−1

+ tan −1 )+

ς ς 2

b−x

h2

ln ( x − a)2 + ς 2 + ln (b − x )2 + ς 2 . (22)

2 h1

grabens. From equation 22, we obtain

gxz = k r ln (22a)

(a − x )2 + h12 (b − x )2 + h22

h h h h

gzz = 2 k r arctan 1 − arctan 2 − arctan 1 + arctan 2 . (22b)

a−x a−x b−x b− x

2D thin sheet

found that the vertical component of attraction caused by a uniform thin

sheet (Figure 3) is proportional to the solid angle subtended by the sheet

at the point of observation, and we noted the general definition for the

solid-angle dw. For the case of the 2D thin sheet, shown in Figure 15,

the solid angle is extended to infinity in the directions perpendicular to the

plane of the figure and therefore can be represented by the plane angle q,

shown in the figure. By integrating in the y-direction from plus and minus

infinity, we can show that the solid-angle w is equal to 2q (note that for

an infinite plane, q = p, and we obtain the known result). For a thin sheet

whose surface density is s (mass per unit area), the vertical component of

attraction is

gz = 2 k s q . (23)

p x

gz = 2 k s [ + arctan ( )]. (24)

2 h

For an infinite plate, q is equal to p, s equals rt, and we obtain the famil-

iar Bouguer formula. Some of the properties of the 2D horizontal thin-

Chapter 3: The Gravitational Potential 39

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gz horizontal thin sheet.

h

sheet anomaly and its higher-order derivatives are given in Table 4 and are

sketched in Figure 16.

finite step (Figure 17). To achieve this, one has to replace x in equation 24

with x + z tan a and integrate over z from h1 to h2. We thus obtain

h2

p x + z tan a

gz = 2 k s ∫ [ + arctan ] dz. (25)

h1

2 z

we make the change of variables:

x + z tan a x x dv

= v or z = and dz = − v

z v − tan a ( v − tan a )2

to obtain

x + z tan a 1

∫ arctan z

dz = − x ∫

( v − tan a )2

arctan v dv.

Using Gradshteyn and Ryzhik (1980, p. 210, formula 2.855), the integral on

the right-hand side above can be evaluated to yield

∫ arctan z

dz = − x cos 2 a ( ln

1 + v2

−

v − tan a

arctan v ).

40

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Maximum Depth to

Location of (minimum) top of thin

Function Formula maxima (minima) value sheet9

p x

Uz 2 k s [ + arctan ( )] x max = ∞ max = 2pks

2 h

h

Uxz 2ks x max = 0 max = 2 k s h = ± x1 / 2

x 2 + h2 h

x ks

Uzz 2ks x max = + h max = +

x + h2

2 h

x min = − h

ks

min = −

h

9 Depth h is expressed as function of abscissa x1 / 2 , where the amplitude is half its maximum value.

at arbitrary scales

of gz, gxz, and gzz for 30

a 2D horizontal thin gz

sheet. 25

20

15

10 gxz

5

gzz

0

–30 –20 –10 0 h 10 20 30

–5

Semi-infinite thin sheet

–10

Chapter 3: The Gravitational Potential 41

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step.

2

r1 h1 z h2

r2 1

To infinity

x + z tan a

∫ arctan z

dz = ( z + x sin a cos a )

x + z tan a

arctan + x cos 2 a ln z 2 + ( x + z tan a )2 . (26)

z

After applying the integration limits and using the notation shown

in Figure 17, we finally obtain to gravitational attraction from a finite

step as

r

gz ( x ) = p k s t + 2 k s (h2 q 2 − h1q1 ) + x (q 2 − q1 )sin a cos a + x cos 2 a ln 2 ,

r1

(27)

and r2 = h22 + ( x + h2 tan a )2 . Note that as x ® ∞, θ2 ® θ1, and r2 ® r1, we

obtain gz ( x ) = p k s t , i.e., half the value of a Bouguer slab, as expected.

For a = 0, expression 27 reduces to the expression of a semi-infinite

slab:

r2

gz ( x ) = p k s t + 2 k s (h2 q 2 − h1q1 ) + x ln .(27a)

r1

Some of the properties of the semi-infinite slab anomaly and its higher-order

derivatives are given in Table 5 and are sketched in Figure 18.

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42

Location of maxima

Function Formula (minima) Maximum (minimum) value x1 / 210

r

Uz p k r t + 2 k r (h2 q 2 − h1q1 ) + x ln 2 x max = ∞ max = 2πkp (h2 – h1) x1 / 2 = 0

r1

r2 h2

Uxz 2 k r ln x max = 0 max = 2 k r ln x1 / 2 = ± h1 h2

r1 h1

Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

h2 h —

Uzz 2 k r (q1 − q 2 1 ) x max = + h1 h2 max = 2 k r (arctan − arctan 1 )

h1 h2

h1 h

x min = − h1 h2 min = 2 k r (arctan − arctan 2 )

h2 h1

10 x1 / 2 represents the coordinate where anomaly amplitude is half its maximum value.

Chapter 3: The Gravitational Potential 43

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a) 35 Figure 18.

Graphs at arbi-

30 trary scales of gz,

gz gxz, and gzz for a

25 semi-infinite slab.

20

15

10 gxz

5

gzz

0

–30 –20 –10 0 10 20 30

–5

–10

b) 0

x

h1

h2

To infinity

In Chapter 2, we developed the Newtonian potential given by equation 5

of Chapter 2. For 2D targets elongated in the y-direction, we can integrate

the potential in this direction from minus infinity to plus infinity and can

obtain what is called the logarithmic potential:

1

U (x, z) = ∫ ∫ r (ξ ,ζ ) log r dξ dζ ,

ζ ξ

(28)

1

where r = (ξ − x )2 + (ζ − z )2 2 .

44

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From equation 28, the gravitätional attraction for 2D targets can be writ-

ten as

ς−z

gz = ∫ ∫ r (ξ ,ζ ) 2 dξ dζ . (29)

ζ ξ

r

Treating geologic solutions in cross section only (as if the geology were

strictly two-dimensional) is often convenient for demonstrating concepts (as

we will see) and is useful in displaying the results of interpretations, but the

third dimension should not be ignored except in those cases in which the

strike length of the geology is sufficiently greater than the cross-sectional

dimensions. A rule of thumb sometimes used is that for bodies whose length

is four times the distance to the point of calculation, the error (overcalcula-

tion by assuming two-dimensionality) is a little less than 10%. In some cases,

it might be desirable to calculate corrections for the nonexistent “ends” of

the structure, but usually, if such errors are of concern, it is more appropriate

to use 3D algorithms.

Green’s first identity11 can be derived from the divergence theorem

applied to the vector field F = V ∇ U , where U and V are scalar functions

of x, y, and z in the region R, with V once continuously differentiable and

U twice continuously differentiable. Green’s first identity relates a volume

integration to an integration over a surface S that completely bounds the

volume:

∫∫∫ R

(V ∇ 2U + ∇U ⋅ ∇V ) dv = ∫∫

S

V (∇U ⋅ n) ds,(30)

the surface S. If we let U be a harmonic function satisfying Laplace’s equa-

tion and we set V = 1, we obtain from equation 30

∂U

∫∫

S ∂n

ds = 0. (31)

closed boundary surrounding the region in which the function is harmonic

and continuously differentiable, averages to zero.

Green’s three identities are derived from the divergence theorem and can be

11

Chapter 3: The Gravitational Potential 45

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∫∫∫ R

(V ∇ 2U − U ∇ 2V ) dv = ∫∫ (V ∇U − U ∇V ) ⋅ n ds,(32)

S

and have continuous partial derivatives of the second order, and n is a unit

vector everywhere normal to surface S. Now, from an infinite number of

possibilities, we select any surface completely bounding the disturbing mass

that is also an equipotential surface, and we choose any point P which is

outside surface S. Let r be the distance measured from P. If we let U = 1/r in

Green’s second identity and let V be the potential resulting from the disturb-

ing mass, then

1 1 1 1

∫∫∫ V ∇ 2 − ∇ 2V dv = ∫∫ V ∇ r − ∇V ⋅ n ds. (33)

R r r S r

first term on the left vanishes. By Poisson’s equation, the second term on

the left is just the potential at point P resulting from the material within S,

multiplied by 4p or 4pVP. Because V is constant on S, the first term on the

right vanishes by Gauss’ theorem. This leaves, after using the divergence

theorem,

1 2 1 ∂V

4p Vp = − ∫∫∫ ∇ V dv = − ∫∫ ds. (34)

Rr S r ∂n

Thus, at any point outside S, the potential caused by a source inside S is the

same as it would be if all the material were spread over the equipotential

surface S with a surface density of

1 ∂V

− . (35)

4p ∂n

The above relationship is called the Green’s equivalent layer. This is

a classic statement of nonuniqueness: A multiplicity of mass distributions

can cause an identical anomaly. Gravity measurements are usually but not

always limited to the earth’s surface. Therefore, the conditions stated above

can be met, except that it is usually unrealistic to concentrate 3D geologic

sources onto laminal surfaces without thickness.

Because surface distributions represent a class of bodies different from

those representing real geology, one might be inclined to dismiss Green’s

layer as not applicable to a large class of geologic problems. However,

46

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lems and sometimes are not bad geologic approximations.

For example, in the general case in which our observations are out-

side the causative sources, Laplace’s equation must hold. A large number

of solutions to Laplace’s equation leads to a variety of mathematical fic-

tions intended to represent rock boundaries occurring within the earth (Fou-

rier series and sinx/x methods are examples) and is used from time to time

in geophysical studies. Such methods can allow us to calculate the depths

to layers on which the mass is concentrated and, with the help of external

information, can allow us to identify the most likely depth in a given geo-

logic problem. It is important to understand the accuracy with which sur-

face distributions can be used to represent volume distributions, and we will

examine this question further in Chapter 7.

Before considering the 3D class of bodies in this chapter, we should

point out that the equivalency developed from Green’s theorem also applies

to other geophysical methods. However, we are concerned here only with

the gravity method, and we wish to make a clear statement about the prob-

lem of ambiguity. In exploration projects, we normally measure the grav-

ity field in an area of interest, and in modern times (almost always), we

also have available other geophysical data sets as well as some geologic

information.

In Chapters 6 and 7, we examine the various problems associated with

determining the observed gravity anomaly to be related to gz, defined in

equation 15, for which the density and geometry can be considered initially

to be unknown. The problem is clearly ambiguous if we lack information

about both the density and the geometry.

If, however, the observed anomaly caused by our target of interest is

unequivocally determined and either the density or the geometry is known

or can be assumed safely, then the remaining unknown quantity can be cal-

culated at least theoretically. With these constraints, we say that the solution

is unique. The questions of uncertainties that might affect our result with

respect to any of the steps required by data reduction and interpretation are

taken up in Chapters 6 and 7.

Perhaps the most referenced statement on the problem of ambiguity is

that of Skeels (1947), shown in Figure 19, in which each of seven geologic

boundaries (from an unlimited number) between the underlying basement

and overlying sedimentary section produces very nearly the same anomaly,

as shown. It has sometimes been assumed that these very different geologic

solutions produce exactly the same anomaly, but in fact, they were derived

empirically and, as with all such calculations, were performed to within

Chapter 3: The Gravitational Potential 47

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interfaces different density distribution, but

it causes nearly the same gravity

1

anomaly. After Skeels (1947),

2 Figure 1.

3

4

5

tral point should not be missed: An excellent fit between the calculated and

observed anomalies does not by itself guarantee a correct interpretation.

In nearly every modern case, however, information in addition to equa-

tion 15 is available to the interpreter, and the extent of ambiguity can be

reduced significantly, as reported by Al-Chalabi (1971). By using parameter

hyperspace, he clearly shows many conditions under which ambiguity can

be limited. Nonetheless, Green’s equivalent layer, combined with the prob-

lems of ill conditioning12, requires that we consider alternatives to an initial

interpretation. It is relatively simple to replace any deep interpretive model

with one that is quite shallow, and the shallow model can be ruled out only

by geologic knowledge or understanding.

However, it is also possible to replace a model with a combination of

deeper structures within the precision of our measurements and our ability

to isolate the target anomaly. Consider, for example, in Figure 20, the shal-

low prism which causes the nearly 8-mGal anomaly depicted by the solid

line. We can find a deeper solution by making the central horst narrower

and thicker and adding two flanking drainage channels (or small grabens),

the calculated field for which is shown by the X symbols. This fit is found

through inversion after only two iterations and is very good. It can be made

better by more iterations, but the point has already been made that whether

12 Large changes in geometry, especially for deep sources, might cause only slight

changes in the calculated gravity field, rendering the accommodation of imperfectly

determined observed fields problematic.

48

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in data reduction, or the fidelity of the model, information in addition to

equation 15 is required in gravity interpretation. We will turn to these issues

in the remaining chapters.

mGal

8

Distance (km)

Depth (km)

5

10

solid black line.

Depth (km)

10

Interpretation B: Three prisms, density contrast = +300 kg/m3 (central), –300 kg/m3 (sides).

Anomaly is shown by X.

Figure 20. Two prism interpretations produce nearly the same anomaly. These

anomalies were calculated independently, but a similar exercise (including a

shallower nonprismatic-equivalent source) was published by Jung (1961).

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Chapter 4

Field Measurements

Introduction

The measurement of the earth’s gravity field, whether in absolute or

relative terms, is one of mankind’s greatest engineering achievements, the

accuracy of which can be on the order of one part in one billion of the earth’s

total field. During a period of more than one century, numerous instruments

have been invented, many of which have met with large commercial suc-

cess. It is not within the scope of this book to review the extensive history

of gravity instruments or to give details of instruments that are not now in

use. A complete description of all gravimeters mentioned in this chapter and

many others not mentioned here can be found in Nabighian et al. (2005),

along with their advantages and limitations.

In this chapter, we discuss absolute and relative instruments, gravity

gradiometry, field operations, measurement uncertainty, and ambiguity re-

lated to survey design.

Absolute-gravity measurements

The number of absolute-gravity measurements made at or near the

earth’s surface is still, in the early twenty-first century, only a very small

fraction of the total number of relative-gravity measurements made, which

is discussed below. Historically, absolute measurements were made using a

pendulum apparatus; modern devices use the free-fall technique.

The period of a simple pendulum is proportional to the square root of

its length and is inversely proportional to the square root of the local grav-

ity field. It is also a function of the amplitude of the pendulum’s swing,

which led to several refinements in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

49

50 Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

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Extensive geodetic surveys were conducted during that time. Schuler (1923)

noted that the period of a pendulum whose length is equal to the earth’s

radius would have a period equaling the orbital period of an earth satellite

at low altitude (about 84 minutes). Interestingly, this is the same time as the

round trip for an object dropped into a frictionless hole (any complete chord,

not just through the center) in a uniform nonrotating sphere whose density

is the same as the mean density of the earth. Pendulums were also used as

relative meters but have been superseded by modern gravity instruments

discussed below.

Zumberge et al. (1983) report the results of an absolute-gravity survey

in the United States in which 12 locations (requiring one day at each site)

resulted in a measurement accuracy of 10 μGal. These instruments are larger

and less portable than conventional relative meters, and both the purchase

price and the field-acquisition costs exceed those of conventional surveying

considerably. Absolute-gravity instruments now yield accuracies of about

1 μGal, are used routinely by academic and government institutions, and are

important in establishing and tying gravity networks and in studying earth

tides and crustal deformation. In recent years, in spite of the increased cost,

absolute-gravity surveys are also being used, usually in combination with

relative meters, in oil-field reservoir monitoring and in so-called 4D surveys

wherein the fourth dimension is time.

Figure 1 is a schematic diagram illustrating the free-fall method for

measuring absolute gravity. A laser interferometer is used to measure with

very high precision the distance an object is dropped. In 2004, the Bureau

International des Poids et Mesures accepted this method as an official pri-

mary method for the measurement of gravity. The time required for free fall

is measured with an atomic rubidium clock.

Relative-gravity instruments

Many gravity meters have been introduced since the 1930s. These, along

with their history and that of the torsion balance and pendulums which pre-

ceded them, are discussed in some detail by Nabighian et al. (2005), who

also include an extensive list of references on the subject.

Spring gravimeters

In the simplest of terms, the spring gravity meter works like a very

sophisticated device that can measure the elongation of a spring when sub-

jected to the weight of a test mass. Figure 2 shows that the device is brought

Chapter 4: Field Measurements 51

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Free-falling operation for absolute-

upper

mirror

gravity measurements.

Courtesy of Micro-g

LaCoste. Used by

permission.

Vacuum

chamber

tion A, where gravity is al-

ready known or can be tied

to a known gravity sta-

tion. The device is moved

to station B and nulled

again. By careful calibra-

Interference

detector

tion of the instrument, the

change in gravity Δg can

be found by the change in

Interferometer the spring elongation Δd.

As an order of magnitude,

a change in gravity of 0.1

mGal would require the

measurement of a change

in the spring length Δd of

better than 10−5 cm.

To detect very small

changes in gravity of im-

portance to modern explo-

Stationary

lower mirror

ration, various techniques

are employed in building

instruments that can mag-

nify the very small cha-

nges in the spring. This is

usually accomplished by optical, mechanical, or electrical mechanisms.

Today, most land gravity surveys are carried out using one or more of a few

of the surviving types: the Worden and Scintrex (both using quartz springs)

and the LaCoste and Romberg (now part of the Micro-g company) and Bur-

ris (using metal zero-length springs) (LaCoste, 1934).

Figure 3 illustrates the concept of LaCoste’s zero-length spring, which

is now widely used in several gravity meters. The concept is for the system

52 Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

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to have an infinite period: By moving the test mass m located at the end of

a beam, the spring length S changes, but so does the angle between mg and

the moment arm b, and those effects cancel. In practice, to avoid the prob-

lem of not finding a null position or equilibrium point, the y-axis is tilted

a very small amount. The meter is quite sensitive and meets the practical

requirement for field usage.

Station A Station B

d d+ d

g+ g

the LaCoste and Romberg zero-

length spring gravimeter. Courtesy

of Micro-g LaCoste. Used by

permission.

s

y

Pivot b

a

m

g + ∆g

Chapter 4: Field Measurements 53

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a) c)

Leveling

Level bubbles

screws

Eyepiece

Locking

knob

b)

Figure 4. Spring gravimeters. (a) LaCoste and Romberg G meter. Courtesy of Micro-g

LaCoste. Used by permission. (b) Scintrex CG-5. Courtesy of Scintrex. Used by

permission. (c) Worden (SEG Virtual Geoscience Center, 2006).

In nearly all land, borehole, marine, and airborne surveys, a “still” read-

ing (in which the null position of the meter is determined) is taken at an

initial place, usually a base station (discussed below), at which the absolute

value of gravity is already known or can be determined by tying that station

to another station whose absolute gravity is known. Subsequent field sta-

tions or traverses are then obtained for which only differences in gravity are

determined, hence the term relative gravity.

Many of the gravity meters in use have a limited range of operation that

must be reset if the change in the earth’s gravity field within the survey area

exceeds the range over which the instrument can be nulled. The LaCoste

and Romberg instruments (Figure 4a) and a few others are designed for a

worldwide range and do not require resetting. Each gravity meter is cali-

brated before leaving the factory, leading to a calibration factor or table of

factors, enabling the user to convert gravity readings into the appropriate

units of gravity.

The operation is subject to two errors: (1) screw “backlash” and (2) meter

drift, or “spring hysteresis.” It is important for the operator to always ap

proach the null position by turning the screw in the same direction. If the

operator overshoots the null position, then the process should be repeated

54 Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

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by backing the screw position and reapproaching the null position. A good

operator can take a meter reading in just a few minutes.

All spring gravity meters capable of measuring small differences in

gravity suffer from a phenomenon known as instrument drift, which results

from the fatigue of internal components, whether made of metal or quartz,

and from small mechanical instabilities.

As discussed below and in Chapter 6, this is a time-varying function

requiring the reoccupation of stations with a frequency that depends in part

on the characteristics of the particular meter employed. A reoccupation rate

of one to two hours is commonly used in exploration work. Quartz springs

generally cause greater and more erratic drift than metal springs. Some

meters, particularly the LaCoste and Romberg, have drift characteristics

that can be treated as linear over a greater length of time and that improve

with instrument age.

Two other instruments that have found wide use in exploration are

the Scintrex CG5 (Figure 4b) and the Worden (Figure 4c). The LaCoste

and Romberg gravity meters have met with the most success and are

preferred by a majority of gravity surveyors, but of course, most meter

operators will be required to use the meter(s) their organization has in

its inventory.

Vibrating-string gravimeters

In the mid-twentieth century, several instruments were constructed

based on the principle of the vibrating string (Gilbert, 1949). An elastic

string vertically suspended with a mass at its end (under tension) vibrates

with a frequency directly proportional to the square root of the local grav-

ity field. The vibrating-string instrument was designed originally for work

in submarines (Wing, 1969). Later versions were developed for boreholes

(Howell et al., 1962; Goodell and Fay, 1964) because of the natural elonga-

tion of the instrument housing.

A more complicated version uses a vertically suspended double-

string and double-mass system. The second string and mass are mounted

below the first string and mass using a weak spring, and the entire system

is constrained at both ends. In this system, a difference in gravity results

in a difference in the tension of the two strings. Accordingly, the natural

frequencies of the strings are different, in proportion to the difference in

gravity.

In 1973, a double-string and double-mass vibrating-string sensor devel-

oped by Bosh-Arma was used to successfully obtain gravity measurements

on the moon during the Apollo 17 mission (Chapin, 2000; Talwani, 2003).

Chapter 4: Field Measurements 55

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That is the only time successful gravity measurements have been made by

humans on a celestial body other than earth.

Vibrating-string gravimeters have the advantage of generally being

physically smaller than spring gravimeters but with a larger dynamic range.

These instruments were subjected to considerable research and development

but were not competitive for land use and were superseded for borehole use

by the LaCoste and Romberg instrument discussed below.

A superconducting gravimeter, the iGrav™ SG meter, is available but

has not yet found widespread applications in industry. These instruments

operate by suspending a diamagnetic superconducting niobium sphere

cooled by liquid helium in an extremely stable magnetic field. The current

required to generate the magnetic field that suspends the niobium sphere

is proportional to the strength of the earth’s gravitational field. Such gravi-

meters have extraordinary sensitivities of 1 nanogal (10−9 Gal) and a drift

of less than 0.5 µGal/month. Virtanen (2006) describes how an instrument

at Metsähovi, Finland, detected the gradual increase in surface gravity as

workmen cleared snow from its laboratory roof.

Land operations require that the meter is first leveled1 and then a null

reading is obtained by the operator or by automatic nulling electronics. If x

is the beam displacement, the appropriate differential equation of the motion

of the beam is (Nettleton et al., 1960)

x + δ x + cx = g + a + Ky,

where the first term is the beam acceleration; the second term is velocity mul-

tiplied by a damping coefficient δ; the third term is beam displacement mul-

tiplied by c, the net restoring force on the beam; g is the gravity acceleration

resulting from geology; a is the acceleration resulting from the motion of the

instrument; y is the spring tension adjustment; and K is an empirical coefficient.

1 Some gravimeters made by Scintrex and by LaCoste and Romberg are self-lev-

eling for small, moderate ground inclinations. This is a very useful feature when

working in jungle areas where lines have to be cut and the Global Positioning Sys-

tem (GPS) is not operational everywhere because of tree canopy. The survey is done

with a helicopter that lowers the self-leveling gravimeter to the ground, takes the

reading, and retracts the gravimeter. The GPS-determined elevation in the helicop-

ter minus the cable length used to lower the gravimeter gives the station elevation.

56 Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

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sea gravity system. Courtesy

of Micro-g LaCoste. Used by

permission.

the first, second, and last terms

are zero. For marine and airborne

work, the damping coefficient δ is

made very large, the spring tension

is adjusted continuously, and a

feedback system keeps the instru-

ment close to the null position.

Inline and transverse gyroscopes

are used to maintain the platform

in a horizontal position with the

aid of horizontal accelerometers.

Details of this technique for

measuring gravity while the instru-

ment is in motion can be found in

LaCoste (1967). Techniques for

identifying the gravity signal g in

conditions where the motional ac-

celeration a might be more than 100,000 times greater are discussed in Chapter

6. The measurement of gravity on a stabilized platform is subject to cross-cou-

pling effects (an interaction between the horizontal and vertical accelerations)

for which an onboard computer has been designed (LaCoste et al., 1967). This

is discussed further in Chapter 6. An illustration of the Micro-g LaCoste air-sea

gravity system is shown in Figure 5.

Modifications to the standard land stationary instruments were introduced

in the last half of the twentieth century to enable gravity surveys in downhole,

offshore, and airborne environments. Currently, most of those instruments are

LaCoste and Romberg borehole or air/sea devices, but a few Bell Aerospace

and Bodenseewerk stabilized-platform instruments for continuous recording

are also in operation. At this writing, LaCoste and Romberg has the only com-

mercially available borehole instruments used primarily for petroleum explo-

ration, although Scintrex has recently developed a slim-hole borehole gravity

meter (Gravilog) which can also be used in mining applications. Both of these

instruments are land sensors made smaller, included in a sonde, and connected

to recording electronics by wires.

Chapter 4: Field Measurements 57

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Satellite-derived gravity

The modern era of satellite radar altimetry, beginning with SEASAT in

1978, ushered in a golden age for imaging and mapping the global marine

geoid and its first vertical derivative, the marine free-air gravity field. The

SEASAT mission was equipped with oceanographic monitoring sensors and

a radar altimeter. The altimeter was designed to measure sea-surface topog-

raphy in an attempt to document the relief caused by water displacement

from large-scale ocean currents (e.g., the Gulf Stream) or water mound-

ing caused by local gravity anomalies within the earth’s crust and upper

mantle. Haxby et al. (1983) produce the first global marine gravity map

from SEASAT satellite altimeter data using interorbital track spacing of

about 180 km. The advent of a public-domain global marine gravity data-

base with uniform coverage and measurement quality provided a significant

improvement in our understanding of plate tectonics and had a significant

impact on regional exploration.

Figure 6 shows a map of a satellite-derived marine free-air gravity

field merged with a terrestrial gravity field. Understanding of the marine

free-air gravity field continues to improve as additional radar altimeter

data are acquired by new generations of satellites. The subject of gravity

measurements from satellites is treated in more detail in the section titled

–150° –120° –90° –60° –30° 0° 30° 60° 90° 120° 150°

60° 60°

30° 30°

0° 0°

–30° –30°

–60° –60°

–150° –120° –90° –60° –30° 0° 30° 60° 90° 120° 150°

mGal

–61.1 –31.6 –21.4 –14.9 –10.0 –5.6 –2.7 0.11.5 4.4 7.5 10.6 14.2 18.4 24.0 32.5 48.3

Figure 6. Satellite-derived marine free-air gravity field merged with terrestrial

gravity field (Sandwell and Smith, 1997, 2001). Courtesy of D. T. Sandwell. Used

by permission.

58 Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

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discussed further here.

Gravity gradiometry

The conventional gravimeter measures a single component (the vertical

component) of the gravity-field vector. As we have seen in Chapter 3, the

gravity field can be represented as the gradient of a potential:

∂U

∂x

gx

∂U

g = ∇ U = gy = .

∂y

g

∂U

z

∂z

tional acceleration changes over distance in the horizontal and vertical di-

rections. A full-tensor gradiometer measures the changes in the x-, y-, and

z-directions of each of the three components of the gravity field gx, gy, and

gz, yielding the tensor

∂ 2U ∂ 2U ∂ 2U

dx 2 dx dy dx dz

U xx U xy U xz

∂ 2U ∂ 2U ∂ 2U

∇∇ U = U yx U yy U yz = ,

dy dx dy 2 dy dz (1)

U U zy U zz

zx ∂ 2U ∂ 2U ∂ 2U

dz dx dz dy dz 2

where Uxz is the gradient in the z-direction of the x-component of gravity and

similarly for the other components. The above tensor with nine elements

is symmetrical, e.g., Uxy = Uyx, and the diagonal elements are connected

through Laplace’s equation, thus leaving only five independent components

out of nine. Notice also that as a result of differentiation, the sources of grav-

ity gradients are not monopoles anymore.

The first gradiometer was the torsion balance, developed in 1886 by

Baron Loránd Eötvös. Two weights were suspended from a torsion fiber at

unequal heights. The weights were separated vertically and horizontally, so

they experienced different forces because of their spatial separations. From

Chapter 4: Field Measurements 59

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these, one can determine both the horizontal gradient of the vertical com-

ponent of gravity and the horizontal gradient of the horizontal component.

With careful measurement procedures, accuracies of a few Eötvös units

(1EU = 10−9/s2 = 0.1 mGal/km) could be obtained.

Such an instrument was used extensively in exploring for salt domes,

particularly on the U. S. Gulf Coast, culminating with the first geophysical

discovery of an oil field at the Nash salt dome in 1924. Although accu-

rate, the Eötvös torsion balance was slow and cumbersome, and it was sup-

planted by the now familiar gravity meter when it became available between

1935 and 1940.

The driving force behind the development of gravity-gradiometer sys-

tems in recent times has been their use on moving platforms. Usual airborne

gravimeters require significant corrections for the vertical acceleration of

the platform and velocity-dependent interactions with the rotation of the

earth (Eötvös effects; see Chapter 6). Although the use of the Global Posi-

tioning System (GPS) has greatly improved the situation, the above fac-

tors are still the main impediments to achieving high accuracies in airborne

gravity measurements. In principle, gradiometers are completely immune

to these effects, although in practice, the effects are always present at some

level. Regardless, gravity gradiometers have typically higher accuracy and

better spatial resolution than gravimeters do.

Today, there are two commercially available gravity gradiometers:

the full-tensor gradient (FTG) system used by Bell Geospace and ARKeX

(built by Lockheed Martin) and the Falcon system developed by BHP Bil-

liton, manufactured by Lockheed Martin and now operated by Fugro. The

FTG system measures the five independent elements of the full gravity

tensor shown in Figure 1, whereas the Falcon system measures the differ-

ential curvature gradients:

∂ 2U ∂ 2U ∂ 2U

− and ,

dx 2 dy 2 dx dy

which are then transformed into the more common vertical gravity gz and

vertical gravity gradient gzz during data processing to form maps.

Both systems are a direct result of gravity-gradiometry developments

by the U. S. Navy for use on its submarines. The FTG is used for land,

marine, submarine, and airborne surveys, whereas the Falcon is used for

airborne surveys only. In addition, Stanford University, the University of

Western Australia, Gedex, and ARKeX are all designing their own new air-

borne gravity-gradiometer systems.

60 Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

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(GGIs) mounted on an inertial stabilized platform (Figure 7). Each GGI

contains four gravity accelerometers mounted on a rotating disk in a sym-

metrical arrangement such that each of the individual accelerometer input

axes is in the plane of the rotating disk, parallel to the circumference of the

disk and separated by 90º. The individual accelerometers consist of a proof

mass on a pendulumlike suspension that is sensed by two capacitive pick-off

rings located one on either side of the mass.

The signal generated by the pick-off system is amplified and converted

to a current that forces the proof mass into a null position. The current is

proportional to the acceleration. Vehicle accelerations are eliminated by

frequency separation in which the gradient measurement is modulated at

twice the disk-rotation frequency (which is 0.25 Hz), leading to a forced

harmonic oscillation. Any acceleration from a slight imbalance of oppos-

ing pairs of accelerometers is modulated by the rotation frequency. This

permits each opposing pair of accelerometers to be balanced precisely and

continuously.

Six gravity-gradient components are measured and referenced to three

coordinate frames. From these six components, five independent compo-

nents can be reconstructed in a standard geographic reference frame. The

remaining components of the gravity-gradient tensor are constructed from

Spin axis

xis

0°

y-a x-a

12

36°

xis

Lockheed Martin). Courtesy of Bell Geospace. Used by permission.

Chapter 4: Field Measurements 61

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Laplace’s equation and the symmetry of the tensor. For a review of the FTG

sensor design, see Jekeli (1988) and Torge (1989).

The gravity field and steady-state ocean circulation explorer (GOCE)

and the gravity recovery and climate experiment (GRACE) satellites are

also capable of measuring the earth’s gravity gradients, which allows scien-

tists to have access to the most accurate model of the geoid ever produced to

further our understanding of the earth.

The GOCE satellite flies at a low altitude of 250 km and has six highly

sensitive accelerometers that measure gravity gradients. GRACE uses two

satellites flying about 220 km apart in a polar orbit at an altitude of 500 km.

It determines gravity components by making accurate measurements of the

distance between the satellites with an accuracy of a few microns, using

GPS and a microwave ranging system.

Field operations

Gravity data are acquired on the land surface, on the sea bottom, on

the sea surface, in the air, and in boreholes and mine shafts. In the early

twenty-first century, field operations are planned and executed in all these

environments except that underwater (sea-bottom) surveys have become

nearly extinct, having been replaced almost entirely by surface-ship opera-

tions2. The latter are compatible with modern 2D and 3D seismic opera-

tions being run simultaneously with gravity surveys. Gravity-only marine

surveys, wherein the cost of the ship and positioning system must be borne

solely as a gravity expense, have been superseded by gravity-gradiometry

surveys.

More than 10 million land gravity stations have been acquired through-

out all continents (Nabighian et al., 2005). Most of them are given an abso-

lute-gravity reference by tying local surveys to national and international

networks. Typically, in a new survey, base stations are established by carry-

ing absolute values from nearby networks. The new field stations are then

surveyed in a sequence (a “loop”), starting and ending with a measurement

applied in time-lapse gravity surveys (or 4D, in which the fourth dimension is time)

for reservoir monitoring (see also the section titled “Time-lapse [4D-gravity] sur-

veys” in Chapter 9).

62 Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

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described in Chapter 6, and the principal parameters (horizontal coordi-

nates, elevation, and absolute gravity) are recorded for each station.

The time duration of each loop should be short enough (one to two

hours) so that the drift of the instrument (discussed above) can be treated

as a linear function of time. In addition, one or more stations should be

repeated within the same loop (as a check on instrument drift) and one or

more at previously established stations in a different loop so that a statement

can be made as to the statistical repeatability of the survey. The station spac-

ing (meters or tens of meters for archaeological and engineering surveys

and tens, hundreds, or thousands of meters for exploration surveys) is deter-

mined based on the distributions and depths of the subsurface targets. One

rule of thumb is to separate stations not more than half the expected target

burial depths, although there are exceptions, as noted in the section below

titled “Measurement uncertainty.”

Marine and airborne gravity surveys entail the operation of moving-

platform gravity instruments along multiple traverses, called primary lines

and tie lines. Unlike land gravity measurements, which are made at rest,

marine and airborne gravity observations are subjected to both horizontal

and vertical motion, requiring filtering and corrections for the unwanted

motional effects. Modern GPS acquisition and processing technologies

have markedly improved the final gravity product in marine and airborne

environments.

Marine operations have the advantage that the vertical motion of the

ship oscillates about a constant elevation (near sea level), whereas airborne

operations typically fly at a constant barometric elevation for which the

average vertical coordinate can vary from traverse to traverse and from day

to day. In both cases, however, the intersection differences between the val-

ues obtained along the primary lines and those observed on the tie lines are

very important for adjusting the gravity data and for estimating the accuracy

of the survey. In offshore 3D seismic surveys, gravity data can be acquired

along lines that are very closely spaced, yielding a near redundancy and

enabling significant improvement in noise reduction.

More than 1000 wells have been logged in hydrocarbon explora-

tion using the LaCoste and Romberg borehole gravity meter (Figure 8).

However, the widespread use of this tool has been curtailed in the last

few decades because of instrument limitations: minimum hole diameter

avoid returning to the designated base.

Chapter 4: Field Measurements 63

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Downhole

electronics

Insulated

sensor

Shown with

restricted

movement

in sonde

Maximum

hole deviation

14.5°

LaCoste. Used by permission.

of about 5 inches, hole deviation from vertical of not more than about

14°, and temperature limits that generally preclude depths much greater

than 12,000 to 15,000 ft (3700 to 4600 m). Poisson’s equation (equation

12 of Chapter 3) provides a basis for determining apparent bulk density

of a large volume of rock beyond the borehole and between stations. We

will examine this determination of density in Chapters 5 and 7.

Currently, instrument readings are static, similar to land measurements,

but are observed remotely using electronics connected to the meter by a

wire line extending to the depth of observation. As with land operations

discussed above, discrete stations are observed in loops to enable the iden-

tification and removal of instrument drift. In oil and gas work, the stations

are usually separated by 20 ft (7m), but smaller and larger intervals might be

incorporated, depending on the nature and expected distance from the well

to the geologic source.

The resolution of apparent density is affected by the relative accuracy of

the determination of station depths (generally, but not universally, 1 cm or

larger) as well as that of the gravity instrument, which is usually more than

5 μGal. The recently developed slim-hole Gravilog system by Scintrex does

not have some of the limitations of the BHGM system because it is operational

in boreholes inclined as much as 60º from the vertical and with an accuracy of

more than 5 μGal. The Gravilog system presently can survey in boreholes of a

64 Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

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2000 m.

Research and development of new borehole tools to observe at higher

temperatures (greater depth) and to enable leveling at any hole deviation

continue to be very active. One of the principal goals in modern research is

to develop a gradiometer that can enable continuous logging.

Gravitec Instruments has developed a sensor technology conceived by

Veryaskin (1999) which employs a “string,” or “ribbon,” as the detection

device. The string device has the unique ability to detect gradient signals

with a single sensing element, as opposed to conventional gravitational

instruments which are based on multiple accelerometers. This instrument

is characterized by a lack of moving parts and very small size and weight.

Measurement uncertainty

Limitations on and resolution of our ability to interpret gravity anomalies

in geologic terms (Chapters 7, 8, and 9) start with the uncertainties inherent

in field measurements, and these uncertainties depend strongly on the nature

of the field operation. Figure 9 summarizes the achievable accuracies for

land, borehole, underwater, gradiometer, surface-ship, airborne, and satellite

operations. For land, borehole, and underwater surveys, discrete readings are

obtained, and observable wavelength is a function of station spacing (see the

section below titled “Ambiguity related to survey design — Aliasing”). The

Smallest

accuracies for various amplitude

gravity surveys in terms measurable

10 Satellite

of shortest observable (mGal)

wavelengths (LaFehr and

1

Nettleton, 1967; Dransfield Surface-ship Airborne

et al., 2001; Fairhead and Underwater

Odegard, 2002; Nabighian 1/10

et al., 2005). Gradiometer

Borehole

1/100

Land

1/1000

Shortest wavelength observable (km)

Chapter 4: Field Measurements 65

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lower left end of the curve labeled “Airborne” can be achieved by slower-fly-

ing helicopters, whereas the upper right end represents fixed-wing operations.

Under acceptable surveying conditions, land and borehole gravity oper-

ations can achieve resolutions between 1 and 20 μGal; underwater (station-

ary) gravity between 0.1 and 0.2 mGal; surface-ship gravity about 0.1 mGal

over wavelengths of less than 500 m; and airborne gravity (fixed-wing)

about 1 mGal over wavelengths of less than 2-km half-wavelength from an

airplane and more than 0.5 mGal over wavelengths of less than 1-km half-

wavelength from a helicopter.

These performance figures are hotly debated, and it is often difficult

to find comparable data from different companies because there are many

ways to present resolution performance. Free-air anomalies over the oceans,

based on satellite measurements, are approaching resolutions of 2 to 5 mGal

over wavelengths of 5 to 10 km (Sandwell et al., 2003). Generally, reso-

lution limits resulting from instrument and operational considerations (in

well-run field surveys) are of less concern than those imposed by the con-

straints of data reduction and interpretation (Chapters 5 and 6).

For proper characterization of a given anomaly, the anomaly has to

be properly sampled. As can be seen from Figure 10, reducing the spa-

tial sampling rate also reduces the high-frequency content of the data,

resulting in a completely distorted picture. This process, known as alias-

ing, occurs when an anomaly is measured at an insufficient sampling rate.

Aliasing is an effect that causes different continuous signals to become

of aliasing the data

(marked with ×) as the

sample interval is halved

successively.

66 Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

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can be avoided by sampling at a frequency at least twice as high as that of

the waveform.

If the sampling rate is Δx, then the shortest wavelength that can be

defined accurately is

TN = 2 Δx,

and correspondingly, the highest frequency can be defined as

fN = 1/2 Δx,

higher than the Nyquist frequency, all the higher frequencies are folded

back as lower frequencies. In other words, a frequency fN + Δf is folded

back around fN and will look similar to a frequency fN – Δf, i.e., these two

frequencies are aliases of each other. Filtering with an antialiasing filter4

before sampling the frequencies above the Nyquist frequency is another

way to avoid aliasing.

As mentioned in the section above titled “Gravity gradiometry,” a good

rule of thumb is to separate stations by no more than half the expected target

burial depths to avoid aliasing. In the presence of both deep and shallow

sources, station spacing is chosen based on the depth to shallow targets,

even though the target of interest is at a greater depth. Not choosing such

spacing will alias the anomaly from the shallower targets, which will then

appear as deeper ones.

4An antialiasing filter is a filter used before sampling the signal, to restrict the

bandwidth of a signal to approximately satisfy the sampling theorem.

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Chapter 5

Introduction

Equation 15 of Chapter 3 is, in theory, a unique formula for perform-

ing the forward calculation that produces the gravity anomaly caused by a

subsurface density distribution. On the right side of that equation, under the

integral, are the density r and the geometric components of an element of

mass to be summed over the entire geologic body. In this chapter, we exam-

ine the nature of density in exploration, its determination, and finally, how a

lateral density contrast is required to cause an observable anomaly.

In Chapter 2, we found that the mean density of the earth is about

5500 kg/m3, but the densities of rocks of general interest in exploration (near

the earth’s surface) are much lower —1600 to 2600 kg/m3 for sedimentary

rocks, 2200 to 3300 kg/m3 for igneous rocks, and 2400 to 3500 kg/m3 for

metamorphic rocks.

Figure 1 gives an example of the density range of commonly encountered

rocks in the shallow earth’s crust compiled from various field studies. We see

that some correlation exists between geologic age and density — older rocks

tend to be denser, but this is not a safe guideline in interpretive work. In gen-

eral, mafic intrusive rocks (e.g., basalts, gabbros, and so forth) are denser than

felsic intrusive rocks (e.g., granites, rhyolites, and so forth). In sedimentary

basins, the porosity in sands and shales tends to decrease with depth because

of compaction, resulting in a general increase in density with depth for those

rocks, whereas salt, which is almost incompressible, is nearly constant in den-

sity with respect to depth. Fluids are low in density: 1000 kg/m3 for water,

about 1030 kg/m3 for seawater, and 600 to 900 kg/m3 for oil.

67

68

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Density (kg/m3)

Cenozoic

Mesozoic

Gabbro

Paleozoic Salt

Gneiss

Shale

Quartz diorite Peridotite

Sandstone

Granite

Carbonate rocks

Densities of a wide range of rocks and of the minerals from which they

are composed are tabulated in several references, such as Clark (1966).

Density variation in rocks of exploration interest is generally not large.

However, gravity interpretation is sensitive to the selected density contrast,

which can vary substantially. Data have been compiled to show this range

in Figure 2a.

We can easily see that the total range of absolute density for most explo-

ration projects is only a factor of two or less, but anomalies are caused by

lateral density contrast, not absolute density. A quick study of the density

ranges suggests that density contrasts can vary over a considerably larger

range, even reversing sign in some cases, as shown in Figure 2b. The increase

in density for sands and shales with respect to depth and the nearly constant

density for salt discussed above are demonstrated in Figure 2b.

Salt density of about 2200 kg/m3 (pure halite is nearer 2150 kg/m3, but

salt is often mixed with foreign constituents) is higher than that of the most

recently deposited sands and shales, which have very little overburden, and

is lower at greater depths where compaction is increasingly significant. The

depth at which salt density equals that of the surrounding sands and shales is

known as the crossover depth. The density-depth curve for sands and shales

varies from location to location. Onshore in Texas and Louisiana, crossover

depth can be as shallow as 700 m. However, crossover depth is progres-

Chapter 5: Rock Density and Gravity Anomalies 69

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a)

Igneous and metamorphic

Limestone

Shale

Sandstone

Salt

Density (kg/m3)

b) 0

Salt

2

Depth (km)

4 Sand-

Crossover depth shale

Basement

8

10

Density (kg/m3)

Figure 2. (a) Density range for various rocks and for soil and alluvium.

(b) Density of sedimentary rocks as a function of depth over a salt dome.

70

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m, and it is not a single point but can exist over a depth range of 300 m or

more (which can be defined as the nil zone).

The bulk density of a rock rb is a function of the matrix density rm,

porosity f, and the density of the fluid rf occupying the rock’s cavities:

rb = rm (1 – f) + rf f.(1)

The fluid density can range from very low values, near zero if substantial

gas is present, to about 1030 kg/m3 or higher for seawater or brackish water.

We plot the bulk density for a range of matrix densities and porosities in

Figure 3, assuming that the cavities are filled with water that has a density

of 1000 kg/m3. A typical matrix for a wide range of rocks would be 2650 kg/m3,

i.e., that of quartz (SiO2). The matrix densities of anhydrite, dolomite, and

calcite are higher, as shown, and those of gypsum, halite, and sulfur are

lower, as also shown in Figure 3.

2800 Dolomite

Calcite

Po Quartz

ro

2600 sit

Bulk density (kg/m3)

y(

%

)

0

2400

10

20

2200 Gypsum

Halite 30

Sulfur 40

2000

50

1800

2000 2200 2400 2600 2800 3000

Chapter 5: Rock Density and Gravity Anomalies 71

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Note that the zero-porosity line shows that in the case in which the rock

cannot contain any fluid, the bulk density is everywhere equal to the matrix

density, and as porosity increases, bulk density decreases. This is consistent

with the information in Figure 2, which shows that sedimentary densities

generally increase with depth in sedimentary basins.

By rearranging equation 1, we obtain porosity in terms of bulk, matrix,

and fluid densities:

ρm − ρb

ϕ= .(2)

ρm − ρ f

This relationship is shown in Figure 4 for the common matrix density appro-

priate to that of quartz (SiO2). In this figure, the fluid density ranges from 0

to 1000 kg/m3. Of course, for zero porosity (indicated at the top of the graph),

0

Matrix density = 2650 kg/m3

10

20

Porosity (%)

30

40 0 200 400 600 800 1000

50

1600 2000 2400 2600

Figure 4. Porosity as a function of bulk density and fluid density for a matrix of

quartz.

72

Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

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no fluids exist in the rock, so the bulk density of the rock in that case is equal

to its matrix density, the point where all lines in the graph converge.

In addition to indicating the dependence of bulk density on the porosity

and fluid contained in the rock, Figure 4 prepares us for an important applica-

tion of the borehole gravity meter (treated in Chapter 6): In a reservoir where

the matrix and fluid densities are known or can be assumed within a range

from core samples and/or gamma-gamma/density logs, the bulk density (de-

rived from borehole gravity) of a large volume of rocks can be used as an in-

dependent means for estimating porosity and therefore fluid volume. This

determination can have a distinct advantage because its estimate is based on

a much larger part of the reservoir than estimates by other logging tools are.

In Figure 4, for a bulk density (shown on the horizontal axis) of about

2300 kg/m3, the porosity would fall between 13% and 21% (shown between

the dashed lines on the vertical axis), depending on the fluid density. In the

second case, a bulk density (horizontal axis) of slightly less than 2000 kg/m3

yields a porosity of slightly greater than 30% if the gas-saturated fluid has an

average density of 400 kg/m3.

Constituent densities

Although matrix density varies substantially, it is often taken in oil and

gas exploration to be 2650 kg/m3, or that of silicon dioxide (SiO2). Common

exceptions are salt (2150 to 2160 kg/m3) and dolomite (2870 kg/m3). Clastic

sediments have bulk densities which are a function of grain size and compo-

sition (typically quartz and feldspars) and of porosity. Although porosity is

not a factor for igneous and metamorphic rocks, mineral assemblage is, and

the wide range of constituent densities gives rise to the range in rock densi-

ties shown in Figures 1 and 2. Table 1 lists constituent densities confined to

the range of 2000 to 3300 kg/m3.

The bulk density of any rock is equal to the sum of its constituent densi-

ties, each multiplied by the percent volume (fn) of the rock it occupies:

Six methods are used widely for determining the densities of rocks in

exploration projects: (1) laboratory measurements of cores, cuttings, and

surface rock samples; (2) logging tools using the gamma-gamma instrument;

(3) the Nettleton profiling technique for surface or water-bottom topogra-

phy; (4) borehole gravity; (5) conversion of seismic interval velocities; and

Chapter 5: Rock Density and Gravity Anomalies 73

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to 3300 kg/m3. Derived from Clark (1966).

Constituent Formula Density (kg/m3)

Salt NaCl 2160

Gypsum CaSO4-H2O 2320

Orthoclase KAlSi3O8 2550

Nepheline NaAlSiO4 2620

Quartz SiO2 2650

Anorthite CaAl2Si2O8 2760

Muscovite KAl2AlSi3O10(OH)2 2830

Dolomite CaMg(CO3)2 2870

Wollastonite CaSiO3 2910

Aragonite CaCO3 2930

Lime olivine Ca2SiO4 2940

Anhydrite CaSO4 2960

Bromellite BeO 3010

Andalusite Al2SiO5 3140

Enstatite MgSiO3 3200

Olivine Mg2SiO4 3210

Diopside CaMg(SiO3)2 3280

points, and/or other geologic information.

Every one of these methods has its limits as to effectiveness. Cores,

cuttings, and rock samples can be damaged or unrepresentative or can vary

because of the difference between atmospheric pressure in the laboratory

and in situ pressure in the earth. The gamma-gamma logging tool is subject

to errors in calibration, effects of hole rugosity, fluid invasion, or formation

damage, and it is not effective in cased holes.

The Nettleton profiling technique (Figure 5) is often used routinely as

part of data reduction. Several densities are selected in the calculation of the

Bouguer anomaly (Chapter 6). If we can assume that the topography does

not correlate with subsurface structure (this is a risky assumption because,

in fact, the topography might owe its existence to such correlation), then we

select the density that leads to the least correlation between the computed

anomaly and topography.

The example shown in Figure 5 indicates a density for the topographic

rocks of 2200 kg/m3, suggesting little or no correlation. If, however, a posi-

tive correlation is appropriate because of subsurface structure, then a lower

74

Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

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Reduction

density

(kg/m3)

Reduced

anomaly

(mGal) 1800

20

2000

2200

2400

10

2600

Gravity profiles for

various densities

Elevation

(m)

4500

Topography

0

4400

4300

4200

4100

500 1000 1500

Traverse distance (m)

density for the topographic feature would be correct in this example. The

Bouguer correction requires the assumption of near-surface rock density

and is treated in Chapter 6.

If the topography (or bathymetry in marine work) does correlate with a

geologic feature below it, as would be the case of an erosion-resistant struc-

ture or low-density alluvium in a valley or drainage channel, it becomes a

matter for interpretation in selecting the most likely surface density. Even

so, Nettleton profiling can be a valuable source of surface-rock density

estimates.

Four of the six methods for determining density are indicated in Figure 6,

depicting a hill with a well drilled on the left side of the illustration. The

Nettleton profiling technique is applied to the gravity data taken on the

topography. Density for the hill rocks is based on the assumption that no

correlation exists in this example, and therefore, the appropriate Bouguer

reduction density is 2300 kg/m3. The subsurface is assumed to be a simple

Chapter 5: Rock Density and Gravity Anomalies 75

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Gravity anomalies

(mGal)

Density

(kg/m3)

Density too low

2000

Correction density

for no correlation

2300

Hill

2300

2400

2500

2600

cuttings gamma gravity

log meter

76

Fundamentals of Gravity Exploration

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layered earth from which the laboratory-derived densities for the cores and

cuttings obtained by drilling yield reasonably average densities, perhaps

slightly low in comparison with those of buried rocks.

The gamma-gamma-based formation-density tool also shows a high-

frequency display, and for gravity-interpretation purposes, it should be cali-

brated for the rock types present and averaged over larger vertical distances.

The borehole gravity method is treated in Chapter 7.

Perhaps the most effective relationship between seismic velocity and

formation density in sedimentary rocks is that of Gardner et al. (1974):

r = a V1/4,

where r is density in kilograms per cubic meter, and the value of a is 310

if the P-wave seismic velocity (V) is given in meters per second and is 230

if the velocity is expressed in feet per second. Gardner’s relationship is

derived from empirical laboratory studies, characterized in Figure 7 and in

a log-log plot in Figure 8. As with any method based on seismic velocity,

24

20

Seismic velocity (kft/s)

16

12

Gardner

4

2000 2500 3000

Density (kg/m3)

Chapter 5: Rock Density and Gravity Anomalies 77

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Log of velocity

3.6 3.8 4.0 4.2 4.4

0.2

1.8

Gardner

2.0

0.3

Log of bulk density

Sandstone

Rock salt

2.2

Shale

2.4

0.4

Limestone 2.6

Dolomite

2.8

Anhydrite 3.0

0.5

5 10 20

Velocity (kft/s)

the resulting density values are subject to errors in stacking velocity that

sometimes occur because of energy dispersion, but the data also indicate

that lithology is a major determinant.

Because the Gardner curve conforms well with and is central to the lines

plotted for shales and sandstones (Figure 8), it is used extensively in gravity

interpretation in the oil and gas industry, especially in the Gulf of Mexico. In

Figure 8, lines of equal acoustic impedance (not shown), along which seis-

mic reflections vanish, would be perpendicular to the Gardner curve, which

is a straight line in the log-log plot. Thus, for some geologic boundaries,

such as between some sands and shales, we expect weak seismic reflections

or even none at all.

It is also true that sufficient density contrast to produce gravity anom-

alies might be lacking, reinforcing the need for multiple tools. Figure 8

shows both the utility and the difficulty in using a single density-velocity

relationship for all rock types. Figure 8 also indicates that substantial den-

sity contrasts can occur where seismic reflections are weak or that strong

reflections can occur where density contrasts are not detectable, such as at

the crossover depth with salt, as shown in Figure 2. Density and velocity do

not always vary directly.

The sixth method for determining and using density contrasts in inter-

pretive work is depicted in Figure 9, along with the Nettleton profiling

78

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Observed gravity

Shallow

density

determination

Topography or

bathymetry

Depth or elevation

Deep density

determination

Time

Seismic reflections

Seismic section

the multifold nature of the problem — all horizontal density contrasts pro-

duce anomalies that are superimposed. Shallow features produce relatively

steep gravity gradients, but there can be much overlap in the character of the

anomalies. Seismic reflections are, of course, measured in time, and some

discrepancy can result when converting them to depth (required for inver-

sion of the gravity anomalies for density).

Both constrained and unconstrained inversion of gravity anomalies can

be influenced by errors in anomaly identification, which we will examine in

Chapter 6. The conversion of seismic interval velocities to density is one of

the most important techniques in oil and gas gravity exploration, but it suf-

fers from a lack of universal applicability.

The difference in density between that of the rocks of interest and that

of the adjacent rocks, or Dr, is what is needed for making geologic interpre-

tations. Two simple examples in which density contrasts arise from struc-

tural uplift are shown in Figures 10 and 11.

In Figure 10, the four horizontal beds, before being uplifted, produce

an unchanging Bouguer gravity anomaly (Chapter 3) equal to 2pkr1t1 +

Chapter 5: Rock Density and Gravity Anomalies 79

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density and t is bed thickness. After uplift, a local anomaly is produced

depending on the geometry of the structure and the density contrasts, which

are the differences, r2 – r1, r3 – r1, r3 – r2, r4 – r2, and r4 – r3.

Prior to uplift, the uniform horizontal beds provide an ideal geologic

environment for the seismic-reflection method, but with the absence of a

Gravity profile

1

ρ2 – ρ

1

ρ3 – ρ

1

2 ρ3 – ρ2

3 ρ4 – ρ2

4

ρ4 – ρ3

Figure 10. Density layers and contrasts in kilograms per cubic meter. After

Nettleton (1971), Figure 1.

ρ ∆ρ ρ

2200 0

2200

2400 200

2400 0

2400

2800 400

0 2800

2800

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lateral density contrast, the gravity method is of no help. After uplift, the

geologic environment becomes more interesting and more problematic for

the seismic method (because of energy dispersion). It also becomes ame-

nable to the gravity method, as we will see in Chapter 6.

Without uplift or without a change in density within layers, no gravity

anomaly can occur. Both the magnitude of the uplift (geometry) and the

magnitude of the density differences are important factors in the production

of the anomaly, which is the sum of the superimposed effects with the con-

trasts indicated by the hachured zones in Figures 10 and 11.

Superposition of effects is also demonstrated in Figure 11, where a sim-

ple fault is depicted on the right side. The vertical extent to which a faulted

bed has the same density on both sides of the fault means that the absence

of density contrast produces no anomaly. However, where deeper beds that

have greater densities are upthrown against shallower beds that have lower

densities, an anomaly is produced from part of the subsurface structure, as

shown by the hachured areas in Figure 11.

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Chapter 6

Data Reduction

Introduction

Lateral variations in the density of rocks cause variations in the gravity

field measured at the surface, and our central problem in gravity explo-

ration is to discover the nature of subsurface rocks, their constituents,

their structure, and their distribution. Toward this end, we use the theory

and tools developed and described in the first five chapters. In general,

the observed gravity value go is equal to the sum of the gravity anomaly

ga caused by the geologic masses we wish to study and the contribution

resulting from “noise,” gN . For present purposes, we will define the noise

contribution,

gN = g p + gg + gi + gd , (1)

as the sum of all unwanted effects, where gp represents all the effects caused

by variations in position, elevation, speed of the instrument, and so forth,

for which standard corrections apply; gg represents geologic noise effects

caused by unknown or uncertain geologic features other than our target(s) of

interest (discussed in Chapters 7 and 8); gi represents untreated instrumental

noise, such as nonlinear drift components in the instrument; and gd includes

survey design noise (aliasing), as shown in Figure 10 of Chapter 4.

In the data-reduction phase of gravity work, our goal is to identify and

remove the effects that make up the first term on the right side of equation 1,

gp, and to evaluate the potential magnitudes of the last two terms, gi and gd.

The intended result is an anomaly field in which all the unwanted contribu-

tions to measured gravity have been partly eliminated and partly minimized

and understood.

81

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In establishing the rules, methods, and steps for data reduction in the

determination of gp, we refer to Chapter 2, where we defined three surfaces:

the topography and two equipotential surfaces defined as the ellipsoid and the

geoid (Figure 4 of Chapter 2). (A fourth surface, the imaginary projection

on which we establish latitude and longitude and perhaps other coordinates,

is generally understood as providing for a base map which gives geographic

orientation for the interpretation.)

The topography is the air-rock interface onshore and the water-rock

interface offshore, for which exist digital elevation models (DEMs) for

many surveyed areas. This surface, depicted in Figure 4 of Chapter 2, is

the actual surface on which we generally make measurements (onshore).

Offshore, we make measurements on the water bottom and on the sea sur-

face. (Measurements are also made in submarines by the military but not

generally in commercial exploration.) In addition, measurements are made

aboard aircraft and in boreholes.

We begin our discussion of infield reduction with typical land surveys.

Later, we will consider other types of data acquisition that require special-

ized treatment. All but a relatively small number of gravity stations continue

to be acquired by using relative-gravity meters, described in Chapter 4. This

means that prior to reducing the survey data, an already existing station for

which absolute gravity is known must be observed from a preexisting net-

work or carried to or near the new survey, thereby establishing the first base

station in the survey.1

Time variations

As we have seen, instruments have a characteristic drift resulting from

metal fatigue, generally but not always decreasing in value with time. Some

instruments drift more or less linearly with time; others can be erratic. Older

meters, like fine wines, often but not always improve with age and are

Woollard, 1958), with their principal facts and locations (many at airports), some

surveys are too remote and/or too urgently required to benefit from a tie with a

known or established network. In those cases, an arbitrary datum is used that is

independent of the world network. If available, absolute-gravity meters can be used

to establish the absolute-gravity value at one or more base stations.

Chapter 6: Data Reduction 83

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springs (found in Worden and Scintrex instruments, for example) can be

notorious for producing very high drift rates.

Lacking clear reliability in drift behavior, instruments therefore must be

made to reoccupy the same station (typically a base station) and notice the

difference (the drift) in observed values. The shorter the time between base

readings, the more likely the drift can be removed accurately by assuming a

linear rate (or higher-order drift function using a larger number of repeated

stations) as a function of time. Thus, an observation is made at a base sta-

tion at the beginning and end of each loop of field stations to establish an

instrument-drift curve for that loop. In addition, it is also good field practice

to acquire at least one repeat station within the loop as a check on drift and

at least one repeat station from a different loop as an additional data point

for estimating survey accuracy.

As a good practice, surveying a loop should last no more than a maxi-

mum of one to two hours. Often, tears (abrupt step function changes) can

occur, caused by a bump to the meter, a rough transport between stations, or

extreme temperature changes. Although these changes are easily observed,

they are not so easily corrected, sometimes requiring the reoccupation of an

entire loop of stations.

In addition to instrument drift, gravity measurement is subjected to the

time variation of earth tides, the gravitational effects of which are a function

of both time and location. Most of this effect is caused by the well-known

positions of the moon and sun relative to the station location, but more com-

plicated secondary effects (much lower in amplitude) are also the result of

the diurnal deformation of the earth’s solid crust, ocean loading, and other

smaller contributions.

Although tidal gravity effects are calculated occasionally for gravity

survey work (Longman, 1959), this is not common practice. These effects

can be as much as 0.3 mGal over a six-hour period but are generally less,

and they fluctuate with an aberrant quasi-sinusoidal behavior as a function

of time, whose period is on the order of 12 hours (Figure 1). The tidal grav-

ity contribution to the measurement usually is removed effectively by the

same process that handles instrument drift — repeated observations at base

stations at reasonably close time intervals.

Instrument manufacturers calibrate every meter either over a known test

range or in the laboratory. This can result in a linear relationship to convert

the meter readings to milligals, or for meters with a worldwide range of

7000 mGal, it can result in a table of conversion factors. This conversion is

applied prior to obtaining the drift- and tidal-adjusted differences in gravity

between the base and field stations.

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effects at midlatitudes. 0.4

0.3

0.2

mGal

0.1

0.0

–0.1

18 2 10 18 2 10

December 11 December 12

Time (h)

Latitude corrections

In Chapter 2, we studied the earth’s gravity field and its variations that

depend on shape and rotation. The expressions given in the section titled

“The standard International Gravity Formula” in Chapter 2 yield the value

of the earth’s gravity field at any point on the surface of the earth. This “nor-

mal” gravity field increases by about 5.3 Gal from equator to pole, and if not

corrected for, it will yield a north-south gradient in measured gravity data.

The latitude correction subtracts the normal field from measured gravity to

eliminate this gradient effect. In general, any of the expressions given in

“The standard International Gravity Formula” in Chapter 2 can be used, but

it is customary to use the expression

When working in a small project area, the above expression can be sim-

plified by differentiating it with respect to an element of arc, R dj, situated

on the surface of the earth (R being the radius of the earth) to yield a good

approximation of the normal gravity gradient,

need to know the north-south location of our gravity stations to about

12.5 m, which is not difficult to obtain with modern Global Positioning

System (GPS) instruments (Geodetic Reference System, 1967).

Chapter 6: Data Reduction 85

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Free-air correction

Let us examine the observed gravity across a topographic cliff with no

density contrasts in the subsurface, as shown in Figure 2. Because the eleva-

tion does not change from negative locations to the cliff’s edge, observed

gravity is almost zero on the left side of the graph. Observed gravity begins

to decrease near the cliff because of the upward attraction of the cliff (both

this decrease and the increase shown for observations at the top of the cliff

are discussed below).

As elevation increases (to the right of the cliff, as shown in Figure 2),

gravity measurements decrease abruptly because of the increased distance

from the center of the earth. This requires a correction known as the free-air

correction (FAC).

Although an arbitrary datum is sometimes used in gravity data reduc-

tion, we assume here the more common approach in which mean sea level

is accepted as the datum. We can calculate that theoretical gravity g(p) at a

0 gravity across a top-

–3000 –2000 –1000 0 1000 2000 3000

ographic cliff with

no density contrasts

–10

in the subsurface.

Vertical topography

Observed gravity

is exaggerated.

–20

anomaly (mGal)

–30

–40

–50

–60

Vertical cliff

x (distance) Relief = 200 m

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M M h h 2 .....

g(p) = k = k 1 − 2 + 3 − ,

( R + h )2 R2 R R2

h h2

g(p) = g ( 0 ) 1 − 2 + 3 2 − ..... ,

R R

h

g ( 0 ) − g ( p ) ≈ 2 g(0) , (3)

R

where g(0) is the gravity field on the datum and R is the earth radius.

The difference per unit change in elevation varies with latitude by about

0.02 mGal/m between the equator and the poles. Because both the earth’s

radius R and its theoretical gravity g(0) vary with latitude, we select a mean

for each, g(m) and R(m) in equation 3, and we obtain

h

g ( 0 ) − g ( p ) ≈ 2 g(m) ,

R(m)

and the free-air correction term becomes

(4)

usually ignored).

which is small at low elevations but can be large at high elevations. For exam-

ple, at 5000 m, the second-order term is 1.7 mGal. Although this term is not

usually incorporated into the free-air reduction, it is not difficult to do so.

The free-air correction can be very large. For example, at a 1000-m

elevation, the correction is 308.6 mGal. If we require a precision of 0.01

mGal, then relative station elevations need to be known to about 3 cm,

which contributes substantially to the cost of a gravity station.

For completeness, we should also include in the free-air corrections the

atmospheric correction that accounts for the gravitational attraction of the

atmospheric masses above the gravity meter. This correction is necessary

because the value of normal gravity includes a component resulting from

the earth’s atmosphere, and without this correction, the gravity anomalies

will be underestimated.

Let us be clear that by making this reduction, we are not reducing the

data to a datum, i.e., obtaining at a fictitious station on the datum what we

Chapter 6: Data Reduction 87

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would have measured there if we had been able to do so. Instead, we are

simply accounting for the decrease in the measured value caused solely by

the station being farther from the earth’s center. In addition, we should be

clear that we are not accounting for local variations in the vertical gradi-

ent of gravity, which might be appreciable in the presence of large local

anomalous masses.

Bouguer correction

As the elevation increases, gravity measurements increase because of

the increased rock mass between the station and the survey datum; this

requires a correction known as the Bouguer correction. In Figure 2, at nega-

tive distance values to the left of the cliff, where the zero elevation is taken

to be the datum, both the free-air and the Bouguer effects are zero. How-

ever, at the higher elevation (positive horizontal distances), the Bouguer

effects cause the observed gravity to be greater than it would be if this effect

were not taken into account.

We have seen in Chapter 3 that an infinitely wide uniform section of

earth that has a thickness t, whose constant density is r, exerts a vertical grav

itational attraction equal to

2p k ρ t,(5)

0.04196 × ρ mGal/m.

This value is calculated for each station, and it is subtracted from the

measured value because the rocks between the station and the datum create

an increase in the measurement. The thickness t in equation 5 is the distance

between the station and the datum, usually taken to be the station elevation

where the datum is mean sea level. Often, in relatively flat terrain, this cor-

rection is the only accounting in data reduction for the rocks between the

station and the datum. In that case, the term simple Bouguer is applied to the

reduction process and to the resulting anomaly (see below).

If undulations in the earth’s surface are substantial, then an adjust-

ment called the terrain correction is also applied. High topography above

the station represents masses whose upward attraction at the station is not

included in the simple Bouguer term and causes a decrease in the measure-

ment; hence, its effect must be added to the measured data. Low topography

below the station represents mass deficiencies for which the simple Bouguer

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Figure 3. A terrain-correction

Terrain compartment

compartment.

Station

term overcalculated; hence, the effect of such masses must also be added to

the measured value. Topographic elevations are usually estimated in com-

partments (Figure 3) to yield the topographic relief that exists between the

station and the average elevation within the compartment.

Where the terrain is severe, a “slope,” or “wedge,” model is used in the

compartment in some cases, rather than a simple prism. For many decades,

terrain corrections were made manually by estimating topographic eleva-

tions in compartments within concentric rings with increasing radii from

each station. The popular Hammer (1939) charts include terrain cover-

age to only 21 km from the station, whereas the comprehensive Hayford-

Bowie system (Swick, 1942) extends to 166.7 km. In most cases in modern

exploration, a digital elevation model can be acquired and used as a basis

for comprehensive corrections that use a variety of computer software

systems.

Most of these programs represent the earth as a collection of vertical

prisms with a flat top and with increasing dimensions farther from the sta-

tion (Plouff, 1977). Terrain corrections are obtained by summing up the

gravitational attraction of these prisms at the location of each station. Often,

the DEM provides for inadequate definition of the topography for the inner

zones near the station. If the terrain is sufficiently severe2, it is necessary

to supplement the DEM with field estimates of the topographic relief near

the station. In some modern surveys, in areas where extreme topography

is not defined by available digital terrain models, additional topographic

information can be obtained by surveying the key topographic landmarks

near the gravity station. These data are then used as supplementary digital

elevations.

terrain and on the desired survey accuracy. It is always good field practice to locate

stations away from abrupt changes in elevation if possible.

Chapter 6: Data Reduction 89

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the correction values tabulated for the inner zones of the Hayford-Bowie

system (Swick, 1942), the results for which are shown in Figure 4. Mul-

tiple errors for a given compartment-elevation error result from the variable

elevation relief (ranging, for these data, between 3 and 60 m) within each

zone. This chart is not intended as a means to determine actual errors but

rather is to help the survey planner determine the extent to which supple-

mentary elevations might be required. Larger errors can occur in very rug-

ged topography. For example, one of the four compartments in zone C, if

its elevation is in error by 62 m, can contribute an error of 4.7 mGal if the

total relief is 800 m.

Two exceptions to the rule to “always add the terrain correction” are:

(1) distant high topography that is actually below the station because of

Zone B (4/68 m) Zone C (4/230 m) Zone D (6/590 m)

3

Terrain-

correction

error

(mGal)

0

0 6 12 18

Terrain-compartment elevation error (m)

compartment elevation for three Hayford-Bowie inner zones. The actual total

error for the station would be the accumulated sum for all compartments in error.

Topographic rock density in the Swick (1942) table is 2670 kg/m3.

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earth curvature and (2) marine terrain corrections, which we will consider

below in the section on nonland reductions.

Earth curvature is taken into account in two ways: (1) in the direct

calculation of terrain effects, the computer algorithm should account (as

do the Hayford-Bowie tables, starting in zone J at about 9 km) for the

actual position of the topographic masses and deficiencies relative to the

station and (2) for the fact that the simple Bouguer plate does not curve

with the earth (this is the Bullard B correction treated in Appendix A of

this chapter).

In flat terrain, a constant error in Bouguer density will result in a con-

stant shift in the anomaly resulting from data reduction. However, it will not

affect the relative shape or gradient of the anomaly which, as we will see in

Chapter 7, are critical in interpretation. Variations in the density of the near-

surface rocks in flat terrain will produce anomalies that are not removed

in the Bouguer reduction process, but these can be incorporated into the

interpretation. If the topography is not flat, any error in Bouguer density will

result in unwanted artifacts of the data-reduction process, i.e., anomalies

that correlate with the terrain. Such correlations might help the interpreter,

as we have seen in Chapter 5, on rock densities.

As a general rule, one should always overlay a topographic map over a

Bouguer gravity-anomaly map and notice any correlations between them.

If the Bouguer density was chosen properly, there should be minimal corre-

lation between the two. In principle, one can use a variable Bouguer density

to overcome this problem (Vajk, 1956), but this is difficult to accomplish.

The simplest approach is to calculate separate Bouguer anomalies with a

few chosen densities and to use, in the various regions of the survey area,

the Bouguer map that correlates least with topography.

Gravity anomalies

Gravity measurements are very sensitive to changes in elevation, as can

be seen in Figure 2. The usual goal in exploration gravity work is to improve

our understanding of the subsurface. Thus, in the data-reduction process,

we would like to remove any effects that are not related to subsurface geo-

logic distributions. We would expect, therefore, because no subsurface den-

sity contrasts are present in Figure 2, that no anomaly would be present in

the results.

A gravity anomaly is defined as the difference between measured grav-

ity (i.e., station gravity after adjustment for time variations and network

ties) and theoretical gravity based on a defined earth model. The free-air

Chapter 6: Data Reduction 91

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anomaly is defined as

gfa = gs − λ + FAC.

The first term on the right side of the equation is station gravity, l is theo-

retical gravity, and FAC is the free-air correction, all defined in the previous

sections. Generally, this anomaly shows strong correlation with topography

even though the correction term, FAC, removes the direct effect of elevation

in terms of distance from the center of the earth.

For sea-surface surveys, the free-air correction is equal to zero (neglect-

ing the effect of tides), but the free-air anomaly nonetheless shows correla-

tion with bathymetry as a reflection of changes in the thickness of the water

column. We might think of the free-air anomaly as having been caused by

all the density contrasts within the earth, including the topographic rocks,

but not by the direct effect of changes in station elevation. The Bouguer

anomaly is defined as

gb = gs − λ + FAC − bc,

where bc is the Bouguer correction. If only the infinite plate (known as Bul-

lard A) is used in the reduction, this anomaly is called the simple Bouguer

anomaly. If terrain corrections (known as Bullard C) are added, it is called

the complete Bouguer anomaly.

Throughout most of the twentieth century, economics limited the ex-

tent to which terrain corrections were carried out. In the current era, with

inexpensive computers and terrain models, every survey should be reduced

by using the complete Hayford-Bowie template, i.e., out to 167 km, and

curvature (Bullard B; see Appendix A of this chapter) should be applied

routinely. The Bouguer anomaly is usually the end product in data reduc-

tion, and it provides the starting point for most gravity interpretations.

The observed gravity depicted in Figure 2 is subjected to the correc-

tions defined here, and the resulting anomalies are shown in Figure 5. Both

the free-air and the simple Bouguer anomalies are near zero on the left

side, as we would expect for a region that has no subsurface density con-

trasts. However, at the cliff’s edge, the free-air anomaly takes a large step

up because of the abrupt change in elevation, and to the right, it increases

asymptotically to include the effect of the rocks between the stations and

the datum.

The simple Bouguer anomaly in this example, by contrast, is never

positive because (with the exceptions discussed above) the influence of ter-

rain features is negative. The simple Bouguer anomaly approaches zero to

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the right side because of the absence of subsurface density contrasts and

the increasing distance from the cliff edge. The flat zero-anomaly curve

is the complete Bouguer anomaly, which includes the terrain correction.

The effect of terrain reaches a maximum at the cliff’s edge and is indeed

very large, indicating the need for locating stations away from the abrupt

change in elevation and/or implementing additional surveying to define top-

ographic features with a precision consistent with the goals of the project.

The free-air anomaly does not overlay the simple Bouguer anomaly near

the base of the cliff because of the effect of interpolating between values at

stations (in this example) separated by 100 m.

(mGal)

25

20

15

10

–5

–10

Ground-surface elevation = 200 m

Ground-surface elevation = 0

Distance from cliff (m)

Figure 5. Gravity anomalies across a topographic cliff with no density contrasts in

the subsurface: FAA = free-air anomaly, SBA = simple Bouguer anomaly, CBA =

complete Bouguer anomaly; all are defined in this chapter. Vertical separation in

ground surface is exaggerated. Topographic rock density is 2500 kg/m3.

Chapter 6: Data Reduction 93

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Isostatic correction

On a global scale, Bouguer anomalies have a very strong inverse correla-

tion with station elevation: High/mountain stations yield Bouguer anomalies

superimposed over a long-wavelength negative background, whereas ocean

deeps produce Bouguer anomalies superimposed over a long-wavelength

positive background. From a geophysicist’s point of view3, this discovery

was made in 1749 by Pierre Bouguer during a French geodetic expedition to

measure the meridian arc. He found that at the base of the Andes, a plumb

bob was not deflected to the extent that calculations required. The idea fol-

lowed that at relatively shallow depths, isostatic equilibrium is attained such

that mountains are balanced by underlying mass deficiencies and ocean

depths by mass excesses.

Two major theories ensued, with many subsequent modifications to

each: (1) The Airy (1855) theory that mountains have roots and (2) the Pratt

(1855, 1859) theory that crustal densities vary horizontally. In both cases, a

depth of compensation occurs such that all columns from the earth’s surface

down to that depth will exhibit an equal amount of mass. In Figure 6, the

Airy theory is depicted by a variable depth to the base of the root, whereas

the Pratt system is depicted by a horizontally varying density function over-

lying a nearly planar depth of compensation.

Isostatic corrections were established by the geodetic community based

on modifications of these two basic models. Several models have been sug-

gested, the two most popular of which are the Airy-Heiskanen model and the

Pratt-Hayford model. The exact model used in the isostatic correction depends

on the relative amounts of compensation attributed to regional versus local

geology.

The resulting isostatic residual anomaly is generally much lower in

amplitude than the Bouguer anomalies. Isostatic anomalies have been

applied in the exploration industry occasionally, but not on a large scale.

Although it is often helpful in interpretive work to be aware of isostatic

effects, which can play an important role in identification of regional fields,

the corrections, which are based on uncertain models, are usually not applied

in exploration work over limited areas.

With a few exceptions (such as the Klamath Mountains in northern Cali-

fornia), the fact of isostatic equilibrium is well established. We can test this

gests that Leonardo da Vinci, among his many other accomplishments, suggested

that visible masses of the earth’s surface are in equilibrium. This is based on the

work of Delaney (1940).

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2800 2900

3300 3300

Airy Pratt

Ocean

ρt

ρc ρ1

ρ2 ρ3 ρ4

ρm

theory for broad regions without depending on any basic model for compen-

sation by observing that the average free-air anomaly is zero if the region is

in compensation. That is because (unlike the Bouguer anomaly, which is cor-

rected for topography) the free-air anomaly has both topographic and com-

pensating mass components. We see below that Gauss’ theorem (Chapter

3) requires that the average free-air anomaly be zero over a broad region.

As the depth of compensation increases, the gravity components associated

with the compensating masses have greater horizontal extensions, requiring

that the free-air anomaly be averaged over regions as broad as 200 km.

Relating the Bouguer anomaly to the free-air anomaly and the Bouguer

correction,

Chapter 6: Data Reduction 95

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gb = gfa – bc.

gb = g fa − bc(7)

From Gauss’ theorem, assuming that the region captures half the flux, the

mass deficiency, Md, where gb is a negative number, is given by

1 n

Md = ∑ gb,iδ Si .

2p k i=1

(8)

n

M T = ∑ δ hi ∆Si . (9)

i =1

Isostatic compensation requires that equation 8 is equal to equation 9, result-

ing in

2p k n 1 n

∑

n i=1

δ hi = − ∑ gb ,i .

n i=1

(10)

The left side of the equation is the definition of the average Bouguer

correction, whereas the right side is the average Bouguer anomaly. Sub-

stituting equation 10 into equation 7 shows that the average free-air

anomaly approaches zero when taken over a broad region. Studies have

shown that over large areas, the free-air anomaly does have an average

of near zero.

Eötvös corrections

For land and underwater measurements, the meter is leveled and at rest.

In all moving vehicles, a phenomenon known as the Eötvös effect is created

because the motion of the instrument modifies the effect of the earth’s rota-

tion, which is already treated as if the meter were at rest. This can be studied

in Figure 7, depicting an earth that has rotation w.

The maximum outward acceleration caused by the earth’s rotation

occurs at the equator and is equal to Rw 2. At latitude j, the component of

outward acceleration normal to the axis of rotation is Rw 2 cos2j. We mea-

sure gravity in the direction of the plumb line (essentially toward the earth’s

center, which further reduces the rotational effect by cosj), resulting in the

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ω

Rω 2cos2Φ

R cos Φ

Rω 2cosΦ

Φ

Rω 2

R

effect Rw 2 cos2j. Now we want to know the change in acceleration resulting

from the earth’s rotation, w :

dw = V/R cos j.

E = 2V w cos j sin a,

where V is the vehicle’s velocity and a is its direction with respect to north.

To this, we add the actual outward centrifugal acceleration acting on the

meter, V2/R, which is, of course, independent of direction but is nearly con-

stant in a given survey.

The Eötvös correction is quite large. For a ship traveling easterly at

1 knot (kn)4 at 45° north latitude, the correction is 5.4 mGal, whereas for a

ship traveling at 10 kn at the equator, the correction is 75 mGal.

Chapter 6: Data Reduction 97

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Marine reductions

Offshore gravity surveys require special attention so that corrections

unique to the marine environment account for the water layer and properly

tie with their land counterparts in the transition zone. Special corrections

might also be required for water-bottom surveys in deep lakes onshore or

in cases where the meter is on a tripod. In these cases, the datum is likely

to be below the water bottom, and the treatment of elevation must take this

fact into account. Figure 8 illustrates the onshore/offshore environment. The

onshore lake and tripod conditions are not shown but can be constructed by

placing the datum below h2.

The elevation of the land station is depicted at h1, the underwater station at

h2, and the surface-ship station at h3. The free-air and Bouguer corrections for

the land case are as described earlier in this chapter. However, note that for the

terrain-correction compartments that contain water, the appropriate density is

not that of the rocks but is the difference in density between the rock and water.

In some nearshore cases5, sea level fluctuates significantly, as depicted

by tidal displacement T. For the underwater location, h2 is negative, so that

the free-air and Bouguer corrections are reversed in sign with respect to land

locations (i.e., gravity stations are located below the datum). In addition,

a new term is introduced for the upward attraction of the overlying water

layer: 0.043 (h2 + T) mGal for seawater density. As in the case of the land

surveys, terrain corrections should take into account the proper density con-

trast of the rocks — water/rock contrast or air/rock contrast.

Surface-ship surveys have the distinct advantage of being located on

the datum. The free-air correction is zero, although this neglects the tidal

effects. Unfortunately, in the open ocean, accurate tidal behavior is usually

unknown, and the measurement errors that this creates must be treated in the

network adjustments discussed below.

It has been argued, largely by those in academic surroundings, that for

these offshore surveys, the free-air anomaly map is the preferable one for the

starting point in interpretation. In that case, we would treat the water layer

(which is generally quite well known) as part of the interpretation of the

subsurface. In the first major offshore survey jointly operated by more than

20 oil companies in 1965, industry voted (with minor argument) that the pri-

mary map would be of the Bouguer anomaly, and that has been the anomaly

of choice by industry ever since.

5In the Bay of Fundy and Cook Inlet, for example, some tides exceed 40 ft (12 m).

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Land

Gravity meter

h1

Surface ship

Actual sea level

T

Mean sea level

h3

h2

Underwater

where h3 is the water depth recorded by the fathometer. This correction

is added to simulate a land survey where water is converted to rock. The

same issue regarding appropriate density as in the case of land surveys also

occurs here. We recall that all but the distant zones in land terrain correc-

tions require a positive addition to the simple Bouguer plate.

That is not the case in surface-ship surveys precisely because the off-

shore stations are acquired on a relatively flat surface and do not view the

bathymetry as a land station views the topography — on the undulating

observational surface that contains the anomalous topographic masses. In

addition, marine terrain corrections might be larger for comparable relief

in the rocks because the solid angle subtended by rocks at the ship location

can be appreciable. Offshore southern California, for example, exhibits ter-

rain corrections ranging from −25 to +25 mGal.

Appendix A

Bullard correction

The Bullard B correction is an adjustment for the fact that the simple

Bouguer plate contains mass laterally beyond the earth and does not contain

existing mass where the earth’s surface dips below the plate, as shown in

Figure A-1.

This correction for curvature (Bullard B correction) modifies the sim-

ple Bouguer plate value (Bullard A) to that of a cap that has a surface

radius of nearly 167 km and a thickness the same as that of the infinite plate

(station elevation using a sea-level datum). This is equivalent to removing

Chapter 6: Data Reduction 99

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Spherical cap:

166.735 km

of Hayford-Bowie terrain zones A through O

∞ ∞

Figure A-1. Geometry of spherical cap in relation to infinite Bouguer plate. After

LaFehr (1991), Figure 1.

all the plate above the earth’s surface and beyond 167 km, whether above

or below the earth’s surface (i.e., all of the slant-shaded zone in Figure

A-1) and adding the part of the cap below the plate (i.e., the solid black

zone). That part of the cap shown in stipple pattern is common to both the

cap and the plate and therefore does not enter into the curvature correction.

The sum of the stipple and black zones constitutes the entire spherical cap.

All dimensions are greatly exaggerated to clearly show the nature of the

correction. Following the methods described in Chapter 2, we can derive the

curvature correction B (for Bullard B),

B = 2p k ρ ( µ h − λ R ), (A-1)

where R is the earth’s radius to the station (Ro + h), and m and l are dimen-

sionless coefficients defined below. Equation A-1 can be used to calculate

the effect of curvature in the Bouguer correction.

The two dimensionless coefficients are μ and l:

μ = 1/3h2 – h,

l = 1/3{(d + fd + d 2)[(f − d )2 + k]1/2 + p + m loge n/(f − d + [(f −d )2 + k]1/2)},

4 sin3 (a /2), m = −3 sin2 a cos a, and n = 2[sin (a /2) – sin2 (a /2)]. R0 is the

normal earth’s radius to sea level, R is the earth’s radius to the station, and

h is the elevation of the station.

The angle alpha is the half angle subtended at the earth’s center by the

section of the earth’s surface at sea level for which the outer distance from

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the station is normally taken to be 166.7 km (or the outer radius of the Hay-

ford-Bowie zone O).

For more details about the exact solution, see LaFehr (1991). A simple

and generally quite adequate approximation to the Bullard B (BB) curva-

ture correction can be expressed as BB = Ah + Bh + Ch, where A × 10–3 =

1.46308, B × 107 = 3.52725, and C × 10–14 = 5.1.

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Chapter 7

and Limitations

We have studied the mathematical basis for the generation of gravity

anomalies (Chapter 3), gravity instrumentation that enables gravity surveys

and generally available surveying methods for obtaining them (Chapter 4),

density variations and methods for determining rock density (Chapter 5),

and the reduction of gravity data in static and dynamic settings (Chapter 6),

which is intended to eliminate often very substantial measured effects that

are unrelated to the gravitational sources we wish to analyze. Both relative-

and absolute-gravity measurements are available in gravity exploration.

Six generalized purposes of gravity surveys can incorporate one or both

methods of measurement:

2) determination of missile trajectories, a military application now seldom

used

3) tidal and earth elasticity studies

4) other time-dependent applications (such as the monitoring of reservoirs)

5) determination of physical constants

6) determination of the subsurface geology or other characteristics of the

earth’s structure

of the anomalies associated with the geologic sources of interest (anomaly

separation) and an explanation of those anomalies in terms of the geology

101

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that is the purpose of the investigation. We will now turn to those activi-

ties. In this chapter, we examine the guidelines and limitations of anomaly

interpretation. In Chapter 8, we examine inversion, a special case of inter-

pretation. In Chapter 9, we illustrate case histories to demonstrate practical

results of interpretation.

As we have seen in Chapter 3, three features of the causative bodies

must be present to produce observable anomalies: (1) sufficient density con-

trast with respect to the surrounding rocks, (2) sufficient geometric distribu-

tion (volume), and (3) sufficient proximity to the sensor. Each of these is

important in the evaluation of observed anomalies and in the simulation of

effects arising from proposed models of the subsurface geology.

Any quantitative interpretation of gravity anomalies in terms of sub-

surface mass distributions assumes some plausible geologic structure with

constant or variable density contrast. The parameters of the structure are

adjusted until its calculated anomaly agrees acceptably well with the ob

served anomaly. Inversion (see Chapter 8) can help to create an interpreta-

tion by using more complicated structures with variable density. In each

case, one needs first to calculate, at any observation point, the anomaly

caused by an arbitrary structure with any density distribution, a topic to

which we turn now.

Modern gravity exploration began in the 1930s, and for the first sev-

eral decades, it relied on a combination of characteristic curves for many

simple models and “dot charts” for manually adding the accumulative grav-

ity effects of irregular bodies. The charts typically were based on using

the method of solid angles defined in Chapter 3. For complicated geologic

structures, manual application could be very time-consuming. In the 1950s,

computers were beginning to change the methodology by direct calculation

of the gravity effects of polygonal and other simple bodies.

Then in the 1960s, grid-based systems were introduced for the forward

and inverse modes of computation. Computers were relatively slow then,

and computer memory was limited and expensive. It was important to take

these limitations into account when using early methods. Although com-

puter memory and speed are of less concern in the early twenty-first century,

they are not irrelevant as larger and more ambitious projects are undertaken.

A volume of mass can be approximated by a collection of rectangular

prisms, as shown in Figure 1. For points outside the source region, the ver-

tical component of the gravity contribution from each prism can be calcu-

lated using expression 19 of Chapter 3, and the total anomaly is obtained

Chapter 7: Anomaly Interpretation 103

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P (x, y, z)

x

the response from rectangular prisms. The smaller and more numerous the

prisms, the more closely the sum of their effects will match the actual effect of the

causative body.

ever, expression 19 of Chapter 3 requires the calculation of many logarith-

mic, arctangent, and square-root terms, which makes it cumbersome if not

impractical for day-to-day applications of gravity anomalies caused by sin-

gle bodies. Some papers in the geophysical literature have helped to address

this problem (e.g., Holstein, 2003; Nabighian et al., 2005).

A simpler approach is implemented by Talwani and Ewing (1960) by

assuming that the target can be approximated by a stack of infinitely thin

laminae (Figure 2). In this approach, one first obtains the response of each

lamina by integrating over its surface and then sums up (integrates) the

response from each lamina in the vertical direction. To simplify calculations,

each lamina is approximated by a polygonal shape, and the surface integral

over the lamina is reduced to an integral along the perimeter of the polygon.

Plouff (1975) expands the above technique by using laminae of finite

thickness with vertical sides and whose top and bottom surfaces also were

represented by a polygonal shape. This approach was used widely in calcu-

lating terrain effects for gravity data.

Barnett (1976) develops an analytical method for calculating the gravi-

tational attraction of a homogenous polyhedron-shaped 3D body. In this

method, the body is represented as being composed of triangular facets,

104

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a) 3D view

P

x

y

dz

b) Plan view

x

rn + 1

n+1

n

rn

which is then approximated to have (b) a polygonal shape.

each facet and then by summing up the individual results. Because the inte-

gral over each facet can be calculated analytically and we need fewer facets

than laminae, this approach is much more cost-effective in calculating the

response from single bodies.

Okabe (1979) develops a similar approach for calculating gravity

anomalies. Pedersen (1978) develops frequency-domain expressions for

potential fields from arbitrary 2D, 2.5D, and 3D bodies, and those expres-

sions are simplified by Hansen and Wang (1988) for arbitrary 3D bodies. In

Hansen and Wang’s formulation, the gravity field of a polyhedron can be

expressed in the frequency domain as a summation over the N vertices of

the polyhedron. In the formulation of Hansen and Wang (1988), the contri-

bution of each vertex to the model can be computed separately without first

Chapter 7: Anomaly Interpretation 105

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decomposing the body into facets. The geometry of the body is described as

a collection of vertex coordinates and set of points which group the vertices

joined by edges.

With dm = r dV and with volume dimensions of dx, dh, and dz, the

general form for the vertical component of attraction in the 3D case is given

by equation 15 of Chapter 3:

d 1 ρ (ξ , η, ζ ) (ζ − z ) dξ dη dζ

gz ( x , y, z ) = k ∫ ρ dV = k ∫ ,

dz r 3

(ξ − x ) + (η − y) + (ζ − z )

V V 2 2 2 2

where the integration is carried out over the volume of the causative body

and r 2 = (ξ − x )2 + (η − y)2 + (ζ − z )2.

Expression 15 of Chapter 3 can be written in general as

gz ( x , y, z ) = ∫ ρ (ξ , η, ζ ) G

V

z ( x − ξ , y − η , z − ζ ) dξ dη dζ , (1)

where

d 1 ζ−z

Gz ( x − ξ , y − η , z − ζ ) = k =k (2)

dz r

3

(ξ − x ) + (η − y) + (ζ − z )

2 2 2 2

attraction at the observation point (x, y, z) resulting from a point mass of unit

density located at x, h, z. Similar Green’s functions also can be defined for

the gx and gy components of gravitational attraction.

Generally, the density function is nonzero only over a confined area of

the half-space, i.e., that represented by volume V. Because the density func-

tion is zero outside volume V, we can extend the limits of integration over

the entire half-space without any loss of generality and can write the above

expression as

∞ ∞ ∞

gz ( x , y, z ) = ∫ ∫ ∫ ρ (ξ , η, ζ ) G

−∞ −∞ z

z ( x − ξ , y − η , z − ζ ) dξ dη dζ . (3)

tion r and the Green’s function Gz. From Appendix A, “Fourier Trans-

form,” at the end of this book, a convolution in the time domain leads to

a multiplication in the frequency domain. Taking the Fourier transform of

106

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∞

F( gz ) = ∫ F[ ρ ( x , y, ζ )] F [Gz ( x , y , ζ − z )] dζ , (4)

z

where the Fourier integration is carried out over the x-, y-coordinates. To pro-

ceed further, we need the Fourier transform of the Green’s function. We have

∞ ∞

e − i ( u x + v y ) dx dy

F[ Gz ( x , y , ζ − z ] = k (ζ − z ) ∫ ∫ 3 =

−∞ −∞

[ x + y + (ζ − z) ]

2 2 2 2

∞∞

cos ux cos vy dx dy

= 4 k (ζ − z) ∫ ∫ 3.

0 0 [ x 2 + y 2 + (ζ − z ) 2 ] 2

The integration over x can be carried out using Gradshteyn and Ryzhik

(1980, p. 249, formula 3.773.6) to yield

∞

K1 [u y 2 + (ζ − z )2 ]

F[ Gz ( x , y , ζ − z ] = 4 k (ζ − z ) u ∫ cos vy dy,

o y 2 + (ζ − z )2

We can now carry the integration over y using Gradshteyn and Ryzhik

(1980, p. 756, formula 6.726.4) to yield

u2 + v 2

F[ Gz ( x , y, ζ − z ] = 2 π k e − (ζ − z ) . (5)

∞

∫ F[ρ(ζ )]e

u2 + v 2 −ζ u 2 + v 2

F( gz ) = 2π ke z dζ . (6)

z

Expression 6 shows that for the most general case, we divide the body into

horizontal slices, take the Fourier transform of the density function for that

slice and, after weighting it by an exponential function dependent on the

depth of the slice, we sum up the results. To obtain the vertical component of

gravitational attraction, we then have to inverse-transform the above result.

Expression 6 yields a closed-form solution only for relatively few sim-

ple bodies, e.g., spheres (monopole), cylinders (horizontal line), vertical

lines and ribbons, and so forth (Blakely, 1995). The numerical calculations

required to carry out the integrations in expression 6 for the general case

are relatively cumbersome. At present, the preferred method is the direct

Chapter 7: Anomaly Interpretation 107

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section above titled “Gravity calculations for an arbitrary model.” In some

special cases, e.g., reservoir simulation, the Fourier method does have some

advantages over the direct evaluation of expression 15 of Chapter 3 and is

used preferentially.

In one case, however, the Fourier-transform approach is definitely pref-

erable to the direct evaluation of expression 15 of Chapter 3. Parker (1973)

develops a technique for calculating the gravitational attraction of a source

layer of constant density with uneven top and bottom topography. Such a

model is useful in calculating isostatic residual gravity anomalies, in esti-

mating the effect of bathymetry or sedimentary basins, and so forth.

Following Parker (1973), we first develop the theory for a layer with a

flat bottom located at z = 0 and an arbitrary topography given by h(x, y, z) > 0

(Figure 3). For convergence purposes and because we can model only a

finite area of terrain, we will assume that the layer vanishes outside some

finite domain.

Letting a position in space be represented by the vector r = (x, y, z)

and with the z-axis positive upward, we can write the gravitational potential

resulting from this layer as

∞ ∞ h(r)

dV dξ dη dζ

U ( x , y, z ) = k ρ ∫ = kρ ∫ ∫ ∫ . (7)

V

r −∞ −∞ 0 ( x − ξ ) + ( y − η)2 + ( z − ζ )2

2

the order of integration,

∞ ∞ h(r) ∞ ∞

e − i ( ux + vy ) dx dy

F[U (r )] = k ρ ∫ ∫ d ξ dη ∫ dζ ∫ ∫ . (8)

−∞ −∞ 0 −∞ −∞ ( x − ξ ) + ( y − η) + ( z − ζ )

2 2 2

z P (x, y, z)

r

z = h (r)

Q( , , )

z=0

Figure 3. Gravitational potential resulting from a source layer with uneven top

and with flat bottom.

108

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use Gradshteyn and Ryzhik (1980, p. 419, formula 3.754.2; p. 736, formula

6.677.5) to obtain for the last integral

∞ ∞ u2 + v 2

e − ( ux + vy ) dx dy e − i ( z −ζ )

∫∫ ( x − ξ )2 + ( y − η)2 + ( z − ζ )2

= 2π e − ( uξ + vη )

u2 + v 2

. (9)

−∞ −∞

∞ ∞ h(r) u2 + v 2

eζ

∫ ∫e ∫

− z u2 + v 2 − i ( uξ + vη )

F[U (r )] = 2π k ρe d ξ dη dζ . (10)

−∞ −∞ 0 u2 + v 2

The integral over z can be performed analytically to yield

∞ ∞ 2 2

eh(r ) u + v − 1

∫ ∫e

− z u2 + v 2 − i ( uξ + vη ) (11)

F[U (r )] = 2π k ρe dξ dη.

u2 + v 2

−∞ −∞

in a Taylor series, we obtain

∞ ∞ ∞

pn − 2 n

F[U (r )] = 2π k ρe − z p ∫ ∫e

− i ( uξ + vη )

∑ n!

h (r ) dξ dη. (12)

−∞ −∞ n =1

The above expression now contains the Fourier transform over various pow-

ers of h(r). We can then write

∞

pn − 2

F[U (r )] = 2π k ρe − z p ∑ F [h n (r )]. (13)

n =1 n!

∂U

We have gz = and, after reverting to a z-axis directed downward in

∂z

the direction of gravitational attraction, we finally obtain the gravitational

attraction of a source layer with uneven top and flat bottom topography as

∞

pn −1

F[ gz )] = 2π k ρe − z p ∑ F [h n (r )]. (14)

n =1 n!

It is easy to see that the above expression can be generalized imme-

diately for a constant-density source layer with uneven top and bottom to

obtain

∞

pn −1

F[ gz )] = 2π k ρe − z p ∑ F [h n (r ) − d n (r )], (15)

n =1 n!

Chapter 7: Anomaly Interpretation 109

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where dn(r) represents the bottom topography. Parker (1973) shows that this

series converges fastest if the z = 0 plane is selected midway between the

minimum values of h(r) and d(r). If the density function is not constant

between the top and bottom surfaces, the above expression can be general-

ized as

∞

pn −1

F[ gz )] = 2π ke − z p ∑ F [ρ (h n (r ) − d n (r ))]. (16)

n =1 n!

This formulation has proved to be extremely useful in calculating isostatic

corrections (see Chapter 6) and estimating the gravity anomaly of sedimen-

tary basins.

It is easy to see that for a Bouguer slab, i.e., h(r) = h = constant, expres-

sion 14, after taking the inverse Fourier transform, reduces to the Bouguer

slab formula gz = 2pkrh.

Anomaly shape

A comparison of anomaly shape for models that have different charac-

teristics can be examined in Figure 4. The bottom of the vertical 2D dike

is set arbitrarily at 50 units (to avoid the problem of an infinite maximum

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