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Publication Date

January 2010


United States


Although most karstic regions are characterized by caves, collapsed features, and sinkholes, such features often do not have surface expressions, and their presence may go unrecorded. Central Texas and the Greater Austin metropolitan area have been built on the karstic limestone (Lower Cretaceous of Glen Rose Formation and Edwards Aquifer) in the Balcones Fault Zone (BFZ), and their growth is expanding. Near-surface karst features in the Austin area have a profound effect upon geotechnical engineering studies, such as structural foundations (residential buildings, shopping malls), utility excavations, tunnels, pavements and cut slopes. Thus the practice of geotechnical engineering is and has been a challenging proposition in the Austin area. Geophysical methods are sporadically used to estimate the locations and parameters of these karst features prior to any of these above-mentioned geotechnical studies. Opinions concerning the effectiveness of these geophysical surveys are mixed, and geophysical techniques are not generally recognized as primary tools in engineering-scale studies. However, remarkable advances in the manufacturing of geophysical instruments over the last ten years have made geophysics a viable tool for geotechnical studies of these karstic features. Data quality has been increased by the advent of continuous data collection. The data are better processed and interpreted by new and improved software packages, which produce improved sub-surface imaging and mapping. Thus integrated geophysical surveys can provide new insight into the near-surface karstic features in the Glen Rose Formation and Edwards Aquifer. I have conducted geophysical surveys (ground penetrating radar [GPR], resistivity imaging, magnetic [G-858], conductivity [EM-31] and natural potential [NP]) at three locations where the Mount Bonnell fault (MBF) is present, along the northern limiting boundary of the BFZ. Results indicate that all methods successfully imaged significant karst anomalies across the known fault locations. Integration of all these anomalies provides a much better understanding of near-surface geology defined by the caves, voids, collapsed materials, sinkholes and the fault itself. -- Author Open Access - Permission by Author(s) See Extended description for more information.

Subject: geographic

United States




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