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Inversion of airborne EM data with an explicit choice of prior model

May 20, 2019

Inversion of airborne electromagnetic (AEM) data is an under-determined inverse problem, in that infinitely many resistivity models exist that will be able to explain the observed data, within measurement errors. Therefore, additional information or constraints must be taken into account to solve the inverse problem. In deterministic approaches, the goal is to locate one optimal model that can be obtained by using some form of smoothness constraints implied through a number of regularization choices. This model, however, will not necessarily represent realistic geological features. Probabilistic methods offer an alternative in which the solution is not one model, but a collection of models, whose variability represents the uncertainty. The probabilistic approach can also rely on implicit model assumptions, representing prior information (a type of regularization information) that may or may not be consistent with the actual available information. Here, we present an approach for AEM inversion in which the prior model is explicitly chosen by a user, preferably selected based on actual prior information available and then integrated with AEM data using a general Monte Carlo based sampling approach. This approach leads to a new workflow to AEM inversion in which geological prior information is independently and explicitly chosen before inversion is carried out. The main benefit of this approach is that each model obtained will, by construction, be consistent with prior (geological) information as well as geophysical data. Through examples based on synthetic and real AEM data, we will demonstrate the methodology, not least that the choice of prior information cannot be avoided: Either it is done explicitly, or it will be chosen implicitly by the choice of method used to invert the AEM data.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2019
Title Inversion of airborne EM data with an explicit choice of prior model
DOI 10.1093/gji/ggz230
Authors Thomas Mejer Hansen, Burke J. Minsley
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geophysical Journal International
Index ID 70217339
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center