The galvanic distortion induced by the electric charge buildup across near-surface inhomogeneities can severely affect the interpretation of magnetotelluric (MT) data for deeper structures. In addition to the methods already available, we have developed an alternative approach for processing MT impedance data with such distortions using an equivalent source technique. One prerequisite for the method is that all data are acquired on the surface, which is nearly always the case in land-based MT surveys. The method works with the electric field scaled from the impedance data and constructs an equivalent electrical polarization layer that attempts to reproduce the signal in the data while misfitting the galvanic distortion. Because of the uncorrelated characteristics of galvanic distortions across multiple stations at the same frequency, they can be distinguished and removed by constructing an equivalent source layer of electrical polarization using a regularized inverse formulation. The tradeoff between the signal and distortion is achieved through the use of generalized cross-validation method during the equivalent source construction, whereas the choice of equivalent source parameters also affects the separation. Numerical tests indicate that good results are obtained when the depth of the equivalent source layer is slightly greater than 10 times the nominal data spacing, and the lateral extent is twice that of the data area. The simultaneous processing with multiple frequencies yields more stable apparent resistivity curves than the separate single-frequency processing. The method has performed well in removing the galvanic distortions in the synthetic- and field-data examples.

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