Interrogating Subsurface Structures using Probabilistic Tomography: an example assessing the volume of Irish Sea basins

Xuebin Zhao, Andrew Curtis, Xin Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The ultimate goal of a scientific investigation is usually to find answers to specific, often low-dimensional questions: what is the size of a subsurface body? Does a hypothesised subsurface feature exist? Existing information is reviewed, an experiment is designed and performed to acquire new data, and the most likely answer is estimated. Typically the answer is interpreted from geological and geophysical data or models, but is biased because only one particular forward function is considered, one inversion method is applied, and because human interpretation is a biased process. Interrogation theory provides a systematic way to answer specific questions by combining forward, design, inverse and decision theories. The optimal answer is made more robust since it balances multiple possible forward models, inverse algorithms and model parametrizations, probabilistically. In a synthetic test, we evaluate the area of a low-velocity anomaly by interrogating Bayesian tomographic results. By combining the effect of four inversion algorithms, the optimal answer is very close to the true answer, even on a coarsely gridded parametrisation. In a field data test, we evaluate the volume of the East Irish Sea basins using probabilistic 3D shear wave speed depth inversion results. This example shows that interrogation theory provides a useful way to answer realistic questions about the Earth. A key revelation is that while the majority of computation may be spent solving inverse problems, much of the skill and effort involved in answering questions may be spent defining and calculating target function values in a clear and unbiased manner.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022JB024098
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number4
Early online date11 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Bayesian inference
  • imaging
  • probability distribution
  • seismic tomography
  • uncertainty analysis


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