Modelling soil magnetism for defence, humanitarian and environmental purposes.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Unlisted


The primary motivation for the proposed research lies with the continuing threat of antipersonnel mines and unexploded ordnance to civilians and defence operations. Despite international agreements banning the use of land mines, and programmes by the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations to clear land mines, there are still an estimated 15,000-20,000 victims per year in 90 countries. It is believed that a total of 45-50 million mines remain to be cleared. While an estimated 100,000 mines are found and destroyed per year, clearing all 45-50 million mines at the current rate will take 450-500 years. A major problem when detecting land mines is the occurrence of, what de-mining people call, 'problem soils'. These are soils that have particular magnetic properties, mainly linked to the amount and type of naturally-occurring iron. These properties interfere with the land mine detectors' ability to sense the very small amounts of metal used in modern mines. What is needed now is the means to know in advance where the 'problem soils' are likely to occur so that de-mining expertise can be organised much more effectively. Unfortunately, up until now there has been no way of deciding with any certainty where these soils are likely to exist. The aim of this research is therefore to produce maps of soil magnetic properties so that 'problem soils' can be identified in landscapes ranging from the hot deserts to the cold tundra. The research will use mathematical equations and statistics to predict soil magnetic properties for different environments. The accuracy of the predictions will be undertaken by comparing them with soil magnetic measurements already made in England and Wales, and other countries. The equations will be modified until there is a good match between predicted and real soil magnetic properties. A successful means to predict soil magnetism will also make important contributions to other scientific studies, including archaeological mapping, determining the sources of sediment in rivers, working out past global climates, and even understanding the role of bacteria in early life on Earth and Mars.

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
NE/D000963/1 01/03/2006 30/09/2007 £167,158
NE/D000963/2 Transfer NE/D000963/1 01/10/2007 28/02/2009 £65,208