While near-surface geophysics shares many of the technical and cultural attributes of oil and gas exploration, the majority of near-surface geophysicists practice under very different economic drivers and conditions. Further, the culture of near-surface geophysics maintains many unique characteristics not shared by the petroleum industry. The near-surface geophysics community includes scientists and professionals from academia, industry, and government. Areas of near-surface geophysics investigation include engineering, environmental, groundwater, mining, geohazards, infrastructure, geothermal, archeological, and agricultural applications.
Near-surface geophysics is generally defined as the use of geophysical methods to investigate the upper few meters to hundreds of meters of the Earth's crust. Although the same physical principles are relevant for any target depth, the high degree of near-surface heterogeneity and proximity to the free surface often dictates that dominant processes differ between the near surface and deeper investigations. Rick Miller, in The Leading Edge "Introduction to this special section: Near-Surface Geophysics" (Vol. 30 No. 2), states "One thing is certain: The need to better characterize the upper 100 m of the Earth's surface is going to escalate to the point at which geophysical efforts (monetary and manpower) in the near surface will surpass those exerted in pursuit of petroleum."