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Geophysics: What is it?

The widely used definition of geophysics is that provided by Sheriff in the Encyclopedia of Exploration Geophysics.

For the purposes of this site, we refer more specifically to the following definitions – these focus on Environmental and Engineering Geophysics:

  1. Geophysics is: The subsurface site characterization of the geology, geological structure, groundwater, contamination, and human artifacts beneath the Earth’s surface, based on the lateral and vertical mapping of physical property variations that are remotely sensed using non-invasive technologies. Many of these technologies are traditionally used for exploration of economic materials such as groundwater, metals, and hydrocarbons.
  2. Geophysics is: The non-invasive investigation of subsurface conditions in the Earth through measuring, analyzing and interpreting physical fields at the surface. Some studies are used to determine what is directly below the surface (the upper meter or so); other investigations extend to depths of 10’s of meters or more.

Both of these definitions have a common component, namely that geophysics represents a class of subsurface investigations that are non-invasive (i.e. that do not require excavation or direct access to the sub-surface). The exceptions are borehole geophysical methods that expand the use of holes already drilled to access the subsurface on a very localized basis.

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