Tidal influence on self-potential measurements

D. J. MacAllister, M. D. Jackson, A. P. Butler, J. Vinogradov

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Long-term surface and borehole self-potential (SP) monitoring was conducted in the UK Chalk aquifer at two sites. The coastal site is c. 1.7 km from the coast and the inland site is c. 80 km from the coast. At both sites, power spectral density analysis revealed that SP data contain the main ocean tidal periodic components. However, the principal lunar component (M2), the dominant ocean tidal component, was most significant at the coastal site. The M2 signal in surface-referenced SP data at the inland site was partly due to telluric currents caused by the geomagnetic ocean dynamo. Earth and/or atmospheric tides also contributed, as the SP power spectrum was not typical of a telluric electric field. The M2 component in borehole-referenced data at the inland site was below the significance level of the analysis method and was two orders of magnitude smaller than the M2 signal in borehole-referenced SP data at the coastal site. The tidal response of the SP data in the coastal borehole is, therefore, primarily driven by ocean tides. These cause changes in fluid pressure and chemical concentration gradients within the coastal aquifer, leading to time varying electrokinetic and exclusion-diffusion potentials. Borehole-referenced SP measurements could be used to characterize and monitor tidal processes in coastal aquifers such as the intrusion of seawater.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8432–8452
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number12
Early online date10 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • self-potential
  • hydrogeophysics
  • tides
  • groundwater hydrology
  • electrokinetic potential
  • exclusion-diffusion potential
  • instruments and techniques : monitoring
  • magnetic and electrical methods
  • water management


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