A novel anisotropic inversion approach for magnetotelluric data from subsurfaces with orthogonal geoelectric strike directions

Jan Philipp Schmoldt, Alan G. Jones*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The key result of this study is the development of a novel inversion approach for cases of orthogonal, or close to orthogonal, geoelectric strike directions at different depth ranges, for example, crustal and mantle depths. Oblique geoelectric strike directions are a well-known issue in commonly employed isotropic 2-D inversion of MT data. Whereas recovery of upper (crustal) structures can, in most cases, be achieved in a straightforward manner, deriving lower (mantle) structures is more challenging with isotropic 2-D inversion in the case of an overlying region (crust) with different geoelectric strike direction. Thus, investigators may resort to computationally expensive and more limited 3-D inversion in order to derive the electric resistivity distribution at mantle depths. In the novel approaches presented in this paper, electric anisotropy is used to image 2-D structures in one depth range, whereas the other region is modelled with an isotropic 1-D or 2-D approach, as a result significantly reducing computational costs of the inversion in comparison with 3-D inversion. The 1- and 2-D versions of the novel approach were tested using a synthetic 3-D subsurface model with orthogonal strike directions at crust and mantle depths and their performance was compared to results of isotropic 2-D inversion. Structures at crustal depths were reasonably well recovered by all inversion approaches, whereas recovery of mantle structures varied significantly between the different approaches. Isotropic 2-D inversion models, despite decomposition of the electric impedance tensor and using a wide range of inversion parameters, exhibited severe artefacts thereby confirming the requirement of either an enhanced or a higher dimensionality inversion approach. With the anisotropic 1-D inversion approach, mantle structures of the synthetic model were recovered reasonably well with anisotropy values parallel to the mantle strike direction (in this study anisotropy was assigned to the mantle region), indicating applicability of the novel approach for basic subsurface cases. For the more complex subsurface cases, however, the anisotropic 1-D inversion approach is likely to yield implausible models of the electric resistivity distribution due to inapplicability of the 1-D approximation. Owing to the higher number of degrees of freedom, the anisotropic 2-D inversion approach can cope with more complex subsurface cases and is the recommended tool for real data sets recorded in regions with orthogonal geoelectric strike directions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1576-1593
Number of pages18
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Electromagnetic theory
  • Inverse theory
  • Magnetotelluric
  • Numerical approximations and analysis


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