Ground-penetrating radar sounding in mafic lava flows: Assessing attenuation and scattering losses in Mars-analog volcanic terrains

Essam Heggy, Stephen M. Clifford, Robert E. Grimm, Cynthia L. Dinwiddie, Danielle Y. Wyrick, Brittain E. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Citations (Scopus)


We conducted low-frequency (16 to 100 MHz) ground-penetrating radar surveys on the eroded lava flows at Craters of the Moon (Idaho, USA) volcanic field to evaluate the potential of future radar-sounding investigations on Mars to map shallow subsurface features. Radar-sounding profiles were obtained from three locations: above a lava tube, across a volcanic rift, and over a scoria cone. Results were combined with laboratory permittivity and magnetic permeability measurements of field-collected samples to deconvolve the electromagnetic attenuation and scattering losses from the total losses and therefore separately quantify both effects on the radar penetration depth. Our results demonstrate a constrained performance for low-frequency sounding radars to characterize mafic, and volcanic terrains that contain a significant amount of ferro-oxides (∼14%), mainly in the form of olivine and magnetite. Penetration depths of 35 m were achieved at a frequency of 100 MHz, and depths of 80 m were achieved at 16 MHz, with an effective dynamic range of 60 dB. Results indicate that for frequencies below 100 MHz, the electromagnetic attenuation dominated the signal losses while above this frequency threshold the volume scattering dominated the losses. Over our frequency range, the observed electromagnetic attenuation and penetration depths were strongly dependent on the magnetic losses, ground porosities, and degree of heterogeneity rather than the sounding frequency. In light of these results, we suggest average attenuation and scattering losses measured in terms of dB/m and discuss the expected penetration depth for the Mars orbital radar-sounding instruments SHARAD and MARSIS in mafic volcanic terrains.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberE06S04
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research E: Planets
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2006


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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