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Airborne electromagnetic (AEM) data can be inverted to recover models of the electrical resistivity of the subsurface; these, in turn, can be transformed to obtain models of sediment type. AEM data were acquired in Butte and Glenn Counties, California, U.S.A. to improve the understanding of the aquifer system. Around 800 line-kilometers of high-quality data were acquired, imaging to a depth of ~300 m. We developed a workflow designed to obtain, from the AEM data, information about the large-scale structure and heterogeneity of the aquifer system to better understand the vertical connectivity. Using six different forms of inversion and posterior sampling of the recovered resistivity models, we produced 6006 resistivity models. These models were transformed to models of sediment type and estimates of percentage of sand/gravel. Exploring the model space, containing the resistivity models and the derived models, allowed us to delineate the large-scale structure of the aquifer system in a way that captures and communicates the uncertainty in the identified sediment type. The uncertainty increased, as expected, with depth, but also served to indicate, as areas of high uncertainty in sediment type, the location of both large-scale and small-scale interfaces between sediment type. A plan view map of the integrated percentage of sand/gravel, when compared to existing hydrographs, revealed the extent of lateral changes in vertical connectivity within the aquifer system throughout the study area.

Seogi Kang

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