Abstract

Time-lapse ground-penetrating-radar (GPR) surveys exploit signal-amplitude changes to monitor saline tracers in fractures and to identify groundwater flow paths. However, the relationships between GPR signal amplitude, phase, and frequency with fracture aperture and fluid electrical conductivity are not well understood. We used analytical modeling, numerical simulations, and field experiments of multifrequency GPR to investigate these relationships for a millimeter-scale-aperture fracture saturated with water of varying salinity. We found that the response of lower-frequency radar signals detects changes in fluid salinity better than the response of higher-frequency signals. Increasing fluid electrical conductivity decreases low-frequency GPR signal wavelength, which improves its thin-layer resolution capability. We concluded that lower signal frequencies, such as 50MHz, and saline tracers of up to 1S/m conductivity are preferable when using GPR to monitor flow in fractured rock. Furthermore, we found that GPR amplitude and phase responses are detectable in the field and predictable by EM theory and modeling; therefore, they can be related to fracture aperture and fluid salinity for hydrologic investigations of fractured-rock flow and transport properties.

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