Abstract

Airborne gravity gradient (AGG) data are rapidly becoming standard components of geophysical mapping programs because of their advantages in cost, access, and resolution over measurements of the gravity field on the ground. Unlike conventional techniques that measure the gravity field, AGG methods measure derivatives of the gravity field. This means that effects of terrain and near-surface geology are amplified in AGG data, and that proper terrain corrections are critically important for AGG data processing. However, terrain corrections require reasonable estimates of density for the rocks and sediments that make up the terrain. A recommended philosophical approach is to use the terrain and surface geology, with their strong expression in AGG data, to the interpreter's advantage. An example of such an approach is presented here for an area with difficult ground access and little ground gravity data. Nettleton-style profiling is used with AGG data to estimate the densities of the sand dunefield and adjacent Precambrian rocks from the area of Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado. Processing of the AGG data using the density estimate for the dunefield allows buried structures, including a hypothesized buried basement bench, to be mapped beneath the sand dunes.

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