Three-dimensional mapping of salt load in the Murray-Darling Basin, 1 Steps in calibration of airborne electromagnetic surveys

R.G. Cresswell, D.L. Dent, G. Jones, D. Galloway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


An airborne electromagnetic survey yields a three-dimensional map of ground electrical conductivity. The remotely sensed data are translated into salt load by field and laboratory calibration: drilling, measurement of borehole conductivity, electrical conductivity of 1 : 5 soil¿water extracts (EC1:5) and chemical analysis of pore fluids. Using these field measurements, the conductivity map is calibrated by constraining model parameters within limits defined by the measured values. Once the airborne data is calibrated, we can derive a regional constant (Ksalt) by comparing total ground conductivity with the mass of salt measured in bore samples. Pore fluid chemistry provides a definitive measure of salt, but EC1:5 values may be used, provided that the procedure ensures complete dispersal of clay aggregates to release all the salt. Maps of salt load can be generated from the conductance (total conductivity) maps using a geographical information system. Without calibration, airborne electromagnetic surveying is misleading. Properly calibrated, it provides a detailed, semi-quantitative, three-dimensional map of the distribution of salt in the landscape: a prerequisite for the effective management of salinity. Salt appearing at the surface and in streams is the result of processes operating throughout entire catenas and groundwater flow systems. Across the southeastern catchments of the Murray-Darling Basin, we found that salt is stored predominantly in thick clay horizons within the regolith (encompassing the soil cover, weathered parent material and unlithified sediments down to unweathered basement). Coarse materials, for example in prior stream channels, may serve as conduits for salt transport to rivers and the land surface
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-143
JournalSoil Use and Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • soil electrical-conductivity


Dive into the research topics of 'Three-dimensional mapping of salt load in the Murray-Darling Basin, 1 Steps in calibration of airborne electromagnetic surveys'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this