Geophysical methods are generally classified as electrical, potential field, and seismic methods. Each method type relies on contrasts of physical properties in the subsurface. Forward models based on the physical properties of air- and water-filled voids within common geologic materials indicate that several geophysical methods are technically feasible for detection of subsurface voids in Ohio, but ease of use and interpretation varies widely between the methods. Ground-penetrating radar is the most rapid and cost-effective method for collection of subsurface data in areas associated with voids under roadways. Electrical resistivity, gravity, or seismic reflection methods have applications for direct delineation of voids, but data-collection and analytical procedures are more time consuming. Electrical resistivity, electromagnetic, or magnetic methods may be useful in locating areas where conductive material, such as rail lines, are present in abandoned underground coal mines. Other electrical methods include spontaneous potential and very low frequency (VLF); these latter two methods are considered unlikely candidates for locating underground voids in Ohio.
Results of ground-penetrating radar surveys at three highway sites indicate that subsurface penetration varies widely with geologic material type and amount of cultural interference. Two highway sites were chosen over abandoned underground coal mines in eastern Ohio. A third site in western Ohio was chosen in an area known to be underlain by naturally occurring voids in lime stone. Ground-penetrating radar surveys at Interstate 470, in Belmont County, Ohio, indicate subsurface penetration of less than 15 feet over a mined coal seam that was known to vary in depth from 0 to 40 feet. Although no direct observations of voids were made, anomalous areas that may be related to collapse structures above voids were indicated. Cultural interference dominated the radar records at Interstate 70, Guernsey County, Ohio, where coal was mined under the site at a depth of about 50 feet. Interference from overhead powerlines, the field vehicle, and guardrails complicated an interpretation of the radar records where the depth of penetration was estimated to be less than 5 feet. Along State Route 33, in Logan County, Ohio, bedding planes and structures possibly associated with dissolution of limestone were profiled with ground-penetrating radar. Depth of penetration was estimated to be greater than 50 feet.