The spectral-element (SE) method, which is based on the Galerkin technique, has been gradually implemented in geophysical electromagnetic (EM) 3D simulation. The accuracy and efficiency of this approach, implemented for deformed hexahedral and regular meshes, has been verified for airborne EM forward modeling. One advantage of the SE method over the conventional finite-element method is that it provides accurate results for earth models that can be adequately parameterized using a coarse mesh. However, realistic models can contain important small-scale conductivity variations or larger features with complicated boundaries. To overcome the limitations imposed by using the same mesh to parameterize the model and for implementing the forward-modeling approach, we have developed an adaptation of the conventional SE method. This is inspired by the ideas behind the element-free Galerkin (EFG) method, in which the conductivity is no longer assumed to be constant within a cell; instead, it is handled via the same kind of numerical integration as in the EFG method. This allows a coarse, regular hexahedral mesh to be used for the forward modeling for complex earth models. After presenting the theory for this new SE approach, we test it for airborne EM modeling of 1D and 3D models to verify its flexibility and accuracy. Finally, we model the Ovoid Zone massive sulfide ore body located at Voisey’s Bay, Labrador, Canada, to illustrate the flexibility and practicality of our approach.

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