An approach for the geophysical assessment of fissuring of estuary and river flood embankments: validation against two case studies in England and Scotland

Phillippe Sentenac, Gareth Jones, Marcin Zielinski, Alessandro Tarantino

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12 Citations (Scopus)


This paper proposes a two-stage geophysical approach to map the vertical cracking and the structural integrity of flood embankments made up of clay geomaterials susceptible to fissuring. The first stage is based on a ‘coarse-resolution’ investigation using conventional electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) equipment to identify the fissured zones in the embankment. This step is complemented by an additional geophysical technique, electromagnetic, to verify the ERT measurements. The second stage is based on a ‘high-resolution’ investigation using a miniature ERT system previously developed at the laboratory scale for detailed mapping of the fissure patterns. The ‘coarse-resolution’ stage is the major focus of this paper and was validated against two case studies in England and Scotland. Longitudinal ERT survey provided a tomographic picture of the upper desiccated zones of the embankments and fissured areas in 2-D, validating the range of resistivity results obtained previously on a fissured clay model in the laboratory. A transversal embankment resistivity tomography was also completed to show the positions of fissured zones in detail in the field. The electromagnetic technique as a fast screening tool allowed cross checking the ERT results and was also efficient in detecting high and low conductivity zones, indicating areas of potential weakness during flash floods and heavy rain. The southern embankment in England showed more fluctuations in the conductivity and resistivity than the north embankment in Scotland, likely to be due to the differences in climate, vegetation and location characteristics between the two sites. Conclusions were also drawn on the potential weaknesses for both embankments and the effect of vegetation on conductivity measurements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1939-1949
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Earth Sciences
Issue number6
Early online date26 Oct 2012
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


  • flood defence
  • geophysical research
  • geophysical assessment
  • fissuring
  • estuary
  • river flood embankments
  • case study
  • england
  • scotland

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