The emergence of hydrogeophysics for improved understanding of subsurface processes over multiple scales

Andrew Binley, Susan S. Hubbard, Johan A. Huisman, André Revil, David A. Robinson, Kamini Singha, Lee D. Slater

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

431 Scopus citations


Geophysics provides a multidimensional suite of investigative methods that are transforming our ability to see into the very fabric of the subsurface environment, and monitor the dynamics of its fluids and the biogeochemical reactions that occur within it. Here we document how geophysical methods have emerged as valuable tools for investigating shallow subsurface processes over the past two decades and offer a vision for future developments relevant to hydrology and also ecosystem science. The field of "hydrogeophysics" arose in the late 1990s, prompted, in part, by the wealth of studies on stochastic subsurface hydrology that argued for better field-based investigative techniques. These new hydrogeophysical approaches benefited from the emergence of practical and robust data inversion techniques, in many cases with a view to quantify shallow subsurface heterogeneity and the associated dynamics of subsurface fluids. Furthermore, the need for quantitative characterization stimulated a wealth of new investigations into petrophysical relationships that link hydrologically relevant properties to measurable geophysical parameters. Development of time-lapse approaches provided a new suite of tools for hydrological investigation, enhanced further with the realization that some geophysical properties may be sensitive to biogeochemical transformations in the subsurface environment, thus opening up the new field of "biogeophysics." Early hydrogeophysical studies often concentrated on relatively small "plot-scale" experiments. More recently, however, the translation to larger-scale characterization has been the focus of a number of studies. Geophysical technologies continue to develop, driven, in part, by the increasing need to understand and quantify key processes controlling sustainable water resources and ecosystem services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3837-3866
Number of pages30
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


  • biogeophysics
  • hydrogeophysics


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