In the application of harmonic analysis to potential-field geophysical studies, relationships derived in terms of the continuous Fourier integral transform are evaluated in terms of the discrete Fourier transform. The discrete transform, obtained by transforming a finite number of equispaced samples of the actual aperiodic continuous function, is too low at the dc level and increasingly too high in the high frequencies, compared with the theoretical integral transform. As a consequence, overly restrictive limitations must be placed on high-frequency-amplifying operators such as differentiation and downward continuation. Also, a spurious and troublesome azimuthal distortion occurs in the discrete Fourier analysis of three-dimensional (3-D) (map) data represented as grids.The discrete transform can be made essentially equivalent to the integral transform if, before sampling, the continuous aperiodic input function is made periodic by shifting the function by integer multiples of the data interval and summing. Doing so requires extrapolation of the data function beyond the limits of the data interval. An equivalent-source technique illustrates the principle. For practical application to large data sets, a high-frequency band-limited filter determined by the low-frequency spectra accomplishes an analogous extrapolation in the frequency domain.

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