We have evaluated a geophysical method that uses a low-frequency magnetic source to image subsurface magnetic heterogeneity. This active source approach can be used to image magnetic features at higher resolutions than the conventional passive geomagnetic method. Importantly, this frequency-domain active source approach is independent of the effects of remanent magnetization, which complicates the interpretation of geomagnetic data. We carried out forward modeling of frequency-domain electromagnetic (EM) data and we found that, at frequencies of a few hertz, the magnetostatic response due to the induced magnetization dominates the EM induction response. The result suggests that it is possible to make magnetic interpretation of low-frequency EM data without having to consider the conductivity structure and the corresponding EM induction effect. We compare the anomalous magnetic responses with magnetic noise components and find that the proposed active source magnetic (ASM) method has a depth of investigation of approximately 300 m. Free-space field and inductive noise are considered as the most important issues affecting the depth of investigation. We also determine the potential for linear interpretation of magnetic heterogeneity under 0.1 SI by showing that the low-frequency magnetic response can be approximated by a linear magnetic response. In our synthetic experiments, inversion of the ASM data shows a marked enhancement in resolution, with no effect of the remanent magnetization, in contrast to geomagnetic inversion. These results show that the ASM method is a useful geophysical tool, especially when high-resolution imaging of magnetic susceptibility is required or where strong remanent magnetization complicates the magnetic interpretation.

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