Abstract

The electromagnetic fields scattered by a three-dimensional (3-D) inhomogeneity in the earth are affected strongly by boundary charges. Boundary charges cause normalized electric field magnitudes, and thus tensor magnetotelluric (MT) apparent resistivities, to remain anomalous as frequency approaches zero. However, these E-field distortions below certain frequencies are essentially in-phase with the incident electric field. Moreover, normalized secondary magnetic field amplitudes over a body ultimately decline in proportion to the plane-wave impedance of the layered host. It follows that tipper element magnitudes and all MT function phases become minimally affected at low frequencies by an inhomogeneity.Resistivity structure in nature is a collection of inhomogeneities of various scales, and the small structures in this collection can have MT responses as strong locally as those of the large structures. Hence, any telluric distortion in overlying small-scale extraneous structure can be superimposed to arbitrarily low frequencies upon the apparent resistivities of buried targets. On the other hand, the MT responses of small and large bodies have frequency dependencies that are separated approximately as the square of the geometric scale factor distinguishing the different bodies. Therefore, tipper element magnitudes as well as the phases of all MT functions due to small-scale extraneous structure will be limited to high frequencies, so that one may 'see through' such structure with these functions to target responses occurring at lower frequencies.About a 3-D conductive body near the surface, interpretation using 1-D or 2-D TE modeling routines of the apparent resistivity and impedance phase identified as transverse electric (TE) can imply false low resistivities at depth. This is because these routines do not account for the effects of boundary charges. Furthermore, 3-D bodies in typical layered hosts, with layer resistivities that increase with depth in the upper several kilometers, are even less amenable to 2-D TE interpretation than are similar 3-D bodies in uniform half-spaces. However, centrally located profiles across geometrically regular, elongate 3-D prisms may be modeled accurately with a 2-D transverse magnetic (TM) algorithm, which implicitly includes boundary charges in its formulation. In defining apparent resistivity and impedance phase for TM modeling of such bodies, we recommend a fixed coordinate system derived using tipper-strike, calculated at the frequency for which tipper magnitude due to the inhomogeneity of interest is large relative to that due to any nearby extraneous structure.

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