We have investigated the 3D topographic effects on controlled-source audio-frequency magnetotelluric data. Two 3D topographic models are considered: a trapezoidal-hill model and a trapezoidal-valley model. Different responses are generated, including the amplitude of the electric field, the amplitude of the magnetic field, the apparent resistivity, and phase data. The responses distorted by the 3D topography are simulated for the source located next to and on the hill/valley. Our study indicates that all electric field, magnetic field, apparent resistivity, and phase data are influenced by 3D topography, but to different extents. These topographic effects depend on the transmission-receiver-topography geometry, the transmission frequency, earth resistivity, and the roughness of the surface. The effects in the near-field generated by topography in the survey area are quite different from those in the far-field because of the existence of the source. Compared with those in the far-field zone, the magnetic field and phase data in the near-field zone are less distorted, but more distortions can be found on the electric field and apparent resistivity data over the hill and valley models. Our results also indicate that not only can the 3D topography in the receiver area lead to strong distortions, but also that at the source position can lead to strong distortions. We concluded our study by quantifying the roughness with which the topographic distortion can be ignored, setting the accepted data distortion to a maximum of 10%.

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