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Open-File Report 2008–1109

Geophysical Characterization of the American River Levees, Sacramento, California, using Electromagnetics, Capacitively Coupled Resistivity, and DC Resistivity

By Theodore H. Asch, Maria Deszcz-Pan, Bethany L. Burton, Lyndsay B. Ball

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Open-File Report
2008-1109 PDF (446 kB)

A geophysical characterization of a portion of American River levees in Sacramento, California was conducted in May, 2007. Targets of interest included the distribution and thickness of sand lenses that underlie the levees and the depth to a clay unit that underlies the sand. The concern is that the erosion of these sand lenses can lead to levee failure in highly populated areas of Sacramento. DC resistivity (Geometric’s OhmMapper and Advanced Geosciences, Inc.’s SuperSting R8 systems) and electromagnetic surveys (Geophex’s GEM-2) were conducted over a 6 mile length of the levee on roads and bicycle and horse trails. 2-D inversions were conducted on all the geophysical data.

The OhmMapper and SuperSting surveys produced consistent inversion results that delineated potential sand and clay units. GEM-2 apparent resistivity data were consistent with the DC inversion results. However, the GEM-2 data could not be inverted due to low electromagnetic response levels, high ambient electromagnetic noise, and large system drifts. While this would not be as large a problem in conductive terrains, it is a problem for a small induction number electromagnetic profiling system such as the GEM-2 in a resistive terrain (the sand lenses).

An integrated interpretation of the geophysical data acquired in this investigation is presented in this report that includes delineation of those areas consisting of predominantly sand and those areas consisting predominantly of clay. In general, along most of this part of the American River levee system, sand lenses are located closest to the river and clay deposits are located further away from the river. The interpreted thicknesses of the detected sand deposits are variable and range from 10 ft up to 60 ft.

Thus, despite issues with the GEM-2 inversion, this geophysical investigation successfully delineated sand lenses and clay deposits along the American River levee system and the approximate depths to underlying clay zones. The results of this geophysical investigation should help the USACE to maintain the current levee system while also assisting the designers and planners of levee enhancements with the knowledge of what is to be expected from the near-surface geology and where zones of concern may be located.

Version 1.0

Posted March 2008

Suggested citation:

Asch, T.H., Deszcz-Pan, M., Burton, B.L., and Ball, L.B. , 2008, Geophysical characterization of American River levees, Sacramento, California, using electromagnetics, capacitively coupled resistivity, and dc resistivity: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008–1109, 12 p.


1.0 Introduction

1.1 Purpose and Scope

2.0 USGS Geophysical Investigation

2.1 Crew and Schedule of Survey Data Acquisition Activities

2.2 Capacitively Coupled (OhmMapper) Resistivity Survey

2.3 Frequency Domain Electromagnetic (GEM-2) Survey

2.3.1 GEM-2 Inversion

2.4 DC Resistivity (SuperSting) Survey

3.0 Discussion and Conclusions

4.0 References


A. OhmMapper Resistivity Models PDF (118.2 MB)

B. DC Resistivity Models PDF (4.8 MB)

C. Survey Photos PDF (19.7 MB)


1. OhmMapper, GEM-2, and DC Resistivity Traverse Map PDF (38.1 MB)

2. OhmMapper and DC Resistivity Inversion Results – Map View PDF (10.9 MB)

3. OhmMapper and DC Resistivity Inversion Results – Sectional View PDF (1 MB)

4. GEM-2 Data – Stacked Map View PDF (18.3 MB)

5. GEM-2 44 kHz Data –Map View PDF (3.9 MB)

6. GEM-2 36 kHz Data –Map View PDF (3.9 MB)

7. GEM-2 29 kHz Data –Map View PDF (3.9 MB)

8. GEM-2 20 kHz Data –Map View PDF (3.9 MB)

9. GEM-2 10 kHz Data –Map View PDF (3.9 MB)

10. GEM-2 Power Line Noise PDF (5.3 MB)

11. Generalized Geophysical Interpretation PDF (4 MB)

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