Assessing and accounting for the effects of model error in Bayesian solutions to hydrogeophysical inverse problems

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Corinna Koepke, James Irving and Delphine Roubinet, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
Geophysical methods have gained much interest in hydrology over the past two decades because of their ability to provide estimates of the spatial distribution of subsurface properties at a scale that is often relevant to key hydrological processes. Because of an increased desire to quantify uncertainty in hydrological predictions, many hydrogeophysical inverse problems have recently been posed within a Bayesian framework, such that estimates of hydrological properties and their corresponding uncertainties can be obtained. With the Bayesian approach, it is often necessary to make significant approximations to the associated hydrological and geophysical forward models such that stochastic sampling from the posterior distribution, for example using Markov-chain-Monte-Carlo (MCMC) methods, is computationally feasible. These approximations lead to model structural errors, which, so far, have not been properly treated in hydrogeophysical inverse problems.

Here, we study the inverse problem of estimating unsaturated hydraulic properties, namely the van Genuchten-Mualem (VGM) parameters, in a layered subsurface from time-lapse, zero-offset-profile (ZOP) ground penetrating radar (GPR) data, collected over the course of an infiltration experiment. In particular, we investigate the effects of assumptions made for computational tractability of the stochastic inversion on model prediction errors as a function of depth and time. These assumptions are that (i) infiltration is purely vertical and can be modeled by the 1D Richards equation, and (ii) the petrophysical relationship between water content and relative dielectric permittivity is known. Results indicate that model errors for this problem are far from Gaussian and independently identically distributed, which has been the common assumption in previous efforts in this domain. In order to develop a more appropriate likelihood formulation, we use (i) a stochastic description of the model error that is obtained through principal component analysis (PCA) on temporally and spatially distributed training data, and (ii) an additional expression to consider normally distributed data noise.