Electric resistivity and seismic refraction tomography: A challenging joint underwater survey at Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Tunnelling below water passages is a challenging task in terms of planning, pre-investigation and construction. Fracture zones in the underlying bedrock lead to low rock quality and thus reduced stability. For natural reasons, they tend to be more frequent at water passages. Ground investigations that provide information on the subsurface are necessary prior to the construction phase, but these can be logistically difficult. Geophysics can help close the gaps between local point information by producing subsurface images. An approach that combines seismic refraction tomography and electrical resistivity tomography has been tested at the Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory (HRL). The aim was to detect fracture zones in a well-known but logistically challenging area from a measuring perspective.

The presented surveys cover a water passage along part of a tunnel that connects surface facilities with an underground test laboratory. The tunnel is approximately 100ĝ€m below and 20ĝ€m east of the survey line and gives evidence for one major and several minor fracture zones. The geological and general test site conditions, e.g. with strong power line noise from the nearby nuclear power plant, are challenging for geophysical measurements. Co-located positions for seismic and ERT sensors and source positions are used on the 450ĝ€m underwater section of the 700ĝ€m profile. Because of a large transition zone that appeared in the ERT result and the missing coverage of the seismic data, fracture zones at the southern and northern parts of the underwater passage cannot be detected by separated inversion. Synthetic studies show that significant three-dimensional (3-D) artefacts occur in the ERT model that even exceed the positioning errors of underwater electrodes. The model coverage is closely connected to the resolution and can be used to display the model uncertainty by introducing thresholds to fade-out regions of medium and low resolution. A structural coupling cooperative inversion approach is able to image the northern fracture zone successfully. In addition, previously unknown sedimentary deposits with a significantly large thickness are detected in the otherwise unusually well-documented geological environment. The results significantly improve the imaging of some geologic features, which would have been undetected or misinterpreted otherwise, and combines the images by means of cluster analysis into a conceptual subsurface model.


  • Mathias Ronczka
  • Kristofer Hellman
  • Thomas Günther
  • Roger Wisén
  • Torleif Dahlin
External organisations
  • Leibniz Institute for Applied Geophysics
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Geotechnical Engineering
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-682
Number of pages12
JournalSolid Earth
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jun 13
Publication categoryResearch

Related projects

Torleif Dahlin, Mathias Ronczka, Roger Wisén, Kristofer Hellman & Thomas Günther


Project: Research

Torleif Dahlin, Per-Ivar Olsson, Sara Johansson, Matteo Rossi, Charlotte Sparrenbom, Håkan Rosqvist, Esben Auken, Gianluca Fiandaca, Mats Svensson, David Hagerberg, Per Hedblom & Mehrdad Bastani


Project: Research

View all (2)