ABSTRACT

Subsurface cavities occur naturally by dissolution of carbonates and evaporites or by human action, such as the construction of tunnels and tombs. They can be filled with air, water, sediments, or a combination. Gravity and ground penetrating radar (GPR) methods have been used widely to determine the location and size of subsurface cavities. The objective of this study is to present a quantitative approach to estimate the porosity and water saturation of cavity-filling materials from GPR and gravity measurements. The approach uses appropriate rock-physics models of the dielectric permittivity and density of a shallow cavity and estimates the porosity and water saturation inside the cavity by solving the two model equations simultaneously for these two variables. We test the proposed method using synthetic GPR and gravity data sets corresponding to three spherical-cavity models: air-filled, water-filled, and a partially-saturated sand filling. Results show that the method is accurate in retrieving the correct porosity within 0.76% error and water saturation within 2.4% error. We also apply the method on three published case studies over air-filled rectangular cavities. We found that the proposed method estimated the correct porosity and water saturation in one study but failed with the other studies. However, when the procedure was repeated with gravity values calculated from parameters reported in these studies, the proposed method estimated the correct porosity and water saturation accurately.

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