Abstract

The Bristow method, an electrical resistivity technique employing a pole-dipole measurement array in conjunction with a simple graphical method of interpretation, has proven an effective means of locating subsurface cavities. There have been questions, however, regarding the limits of the method and whether the Bristow method is indeed the most suitable of the various electrical resistivity techniques for cavity detection. In hopes of resolving some of the controversy surrounding Bristow's method, resistivity traverses are numerically modeled over spherical and cylindrical cavities given a variety of circumstances. Using a slight variation of Bristow's original interpretive technique on modeled data, the size and location of subsurface cavities can be determined with surprising accuracy. However, when the simulation is altered to incorporate geologic noise, the maximum depth at which a cavity can be detected is found to be far less than has been reported in field investigations. In this instance the presence of a cylindrical cavity cannot be discerned beyond a depth to the top approximately equal to the diameter of the cavity, and spherical cavities are indistinguishable at depths much greater than the radius. One should note that the noise field generated for this model may not be representative of what would normally be found in the real earth. In the field, the maximum achievable depth of detection will vary depending on the actual geologic conditions and whether some technique is employed to reduce the effects of noise. In any case, a comparison of traverses using various electrode arrays confirms that the Bristow method is the most satisfactory of the applicable electrical resistivity techniques.

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