Serpentinized ultramafic rocks and associated soils in northern California are characterized by high concentrations of Cr and Ni, low levels of radioelements (K, Th, and U) and high amounts of ferrimagnetic minerals (primarily magnetite). Geophysical attributes over ultramafic rocks, which include airborne gamma-ray and magnetic anomaly data, are quantified and provide indirect measurements on the relative abundance of radioelements and magnetic minerals, respectively. Attributes are defined through a statistical modeling approach and the results are portrayed as probabilities in chart and map form. Two predictive models are presented, including one derived from the aeromagnetic anomaly data and one from a combination of the airborne K, Th and U gamma-ray data. Both models distinguish preferential values within the aerogeophysical data that coincide with mapped and potentially unmapped ultramafic rocks. The magnetic predictive model shows positive probabilities associated with magnetic anomaly highs and, to a lesser degree, anomaly lows, which accurately locate many known ultramafic outcrops, but more interestingly, locate potentially unmapped ultramafic rocks, possible extensions of ultramafic bodies that dip into the shallow subsurface, as well as prospective buried ultramafic rocks. The airborne radiometric model shows positive probabilities in association with anomalously low gamma radiation measurements over ultramafic rock, which is similar to that produced by gabbro, metavolcanic rock, and water bodies. All of these features share the characteristic of being depleted in K, Th and U. Gabbro is the only rock type in the study area that shares similar magnetic properties with the ultramafic rock. The aerogeophysical model results are compared to the distribution of ultramafic outcrops and to Cr, Ni, K, Th and U concentrations and magnetic susceptibility measurements from soil samples. Analysis of the soil data indicates high positive correlation between magnetic susceptibilities and concentration of Cr and Ni. Although the study focused on characterizing the geophysical properties of ultramafic rocks and associated soils, it has also yielded information on other rock types in addition to ultramafic rocks, which can also locally host naturally-occurring asbestos; specifically, gabbro and metavolcanic rocks.
Additional publication details
Airborne gamma-ray and magnetic anomaly signatures of serpentinite in relation to soil geochemistry, northern California