Near-surface weathering profiles integrate tectonic history, past and present climatic conditions, and interactions with the biosphere. The amount of weathering that a rock has undergone controls both the availability of material for transport at the surface and physical pathways for water to interact with material at depth; thus rock damage provides first order controls on landscape evolution. In this study we use seismic refraction and ground-penetrating-radar (GPR) surveys to estimate depths to unweathered bedrock and to investigate the spatial variability of fractures within the saprolite in the Sherman Batholith, SE Wyoming. We use a 48-channel geophone array with a hammer source and perform tomographic inversions of observed travel-times. Our results show that depths to seismic velocities > 4.0 km/s, characteristic of unweathered Sherman granite, are ~10-40 meters. We collect vertically incident GPR data with several antennae with peak frequencies up to 400 Mhz. Depth-migrated images reveal highly damaged saprolite, with fractures penetrating up to 10 meters. We find that fracture density is higher where seismic velocities are lower. We also observe horizontal fractures terminating down dip of weaker reflections, which we interpret as relatively coherent dikes in an otherwise friable saprolite. We hypothesize that these dikes may play an important role in routing water through the subsurface.
St. Clair, J.T., Holbrook, W., Riebe, C.S. (2012): Fractures in the Critical Zone: Insights from GPR and seismic refraction surveys. Fall Meeting, American Geophysical Union, December 2012. Abstract EP43B-0871..