Validation of sensitivity and reliability of GPR and microgravity detection of underground cavities in complex urban settings: Test case of a cellar

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We test here the feasibility of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and microgravity methods in identifying underground voids, such as cellars, tunnels, abandoned mine-workings, etc., in complex urban conditions. For this purpose, we selected a cellar located under a private lot in a residential quarter of the town of Senec in Western Slovakia, which was discovered by chance when a small sinkhole developed on the yard just two meters away from the house. The size of our survey area was limited 1) by the presence of a technical room built at the back of the yard with a staircase leading to the garden, and 2) by the small width of the lot. Therefore the geophysical survey was carried out only in the backyard of the lot as we were not permitted to measure on neighbouring estates. The results from the GPR measurements obtained by the GSSI SIR-3000 system with 400 MHz antenna were visualized in the form of 2D radargrams with the corresponding transformed velocity model of studied cross-sections. Only the profiles running over the pavement next to the house yielded interpretable data because the local geological situation and the regular watering of the lawn covering prevailingly the backyard caused significant attenuation of the emitted GPR signal. The Bouguer gravity map is dominated by a distinctive negative anomaly indicating the presence of a shallow underground void. The quantitative interpretation by means of Euler deconvolution was utilized to validate the depth of the center and location of the cellar. Comparison with the gravitational effect of the cellar model calculated in the in-house program Polygrav shows a quite good correlation between the modelled and observed fields. Only a part of the aerial extent of the anomaly could be traced by the used geophysical methods due to accessibility issues. Nevertheless, the test cellar was successfully detected and interpreted by both methods, thus confirming their applicability in similar environmental and geotechnical applications, even in complex urban conditions.

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