High-resolution aeromagnetic data acquired over the Albuquerque basin show widespread expression of faults that offset basin fill and demonstrate that the aeromagnetic method can be an important hydrogeologic and surficial mapping tool in sediment-filled basins. Aeromagnetic expression of faults is recognized by the common correspondence of linear anomalies to surficial evidence of faulting across the area. In map view, linear anomalies show patterns typical of extensional faulting, such as anastomosing and en echelon segments. Depths to the tops of faulted magnetic layers showing the most prominent aeromagnetic expression range from 0 to 100 m. Sources related to subtler fault expressions range in depths from 200 to 500 m. We estimate that sources of the magnetic expressions of the near-surface faults likely reside within the upper 500-600 m of the subsurface. The linear anomalies in profile form show a range of shapes, but all of them can be explained by the juxta-position of layers having different magnetic properties. One typical anomaly differs from the expected symmetric fault anomaly by exhibiting an apparent low over the fault zone and more than one inflection point. Although the apparent low could easily be misinterpreted as representing multiple faults or an anomalous fault zone, geophysical analysis, magnetic-property measurements, and geologic considerations lead instead to a "thin-thick model" in which magnetic layers of different thickness are juxtaposed. The general geometry of this model is a thin magnetic layer on the upthrown block and a thick magnetic layer on the downthrown block. The thin-thick model can be represented geologically by growth faulting and syntectonic sedimentation, where relatively coarse-grained sediment (which is more magnetic than fine-grained material) has accumulated in the hanging wall. This implies that the aeromagnetic data have potential for mapping growth faults and locating concentrations of coarse-grained material that may have high hydraulic transmissivity. Although cementation along fault zones is common in portions of the area, we found no evidence that this secondary process results in measurable aeromagnetic anomalies. This observation differs from the findings in other sedimentary basins suggesting that magnetic anomalies arise from secondary magnetization along fault planes.
Additional publication details
Aeromagnetic expression of faults that offset basin fill, Albuquerque basin, New Mexico