Optimization schemes for the inversion of Bouguer gravity anomalies

Azucena Zamora, University of Texas at El Paso


Data sets obtained from measurable physical properties of the Earth structure have helped advance the understanding of its tectonic and structural processes and constitute key elements for resource prospecting. 2-Dimensional (2-D) and 3-D models obtained from the inversion of geophysical data sets are widely used to represent the structural composition of the Earth based on physical properties such as density, seismic wave velocities, magnetic susceptibility, conductivity, and resistivity. The inversion of each one of these data sets provides structural models whose consistency depends on the data collection process, methodology, and overall assumptions made in their individual mathematical processes. Although sampling the same medium, seismic and non-seismic methods often provide inconsistent final structural models of the Earth with varying accuracy, sensitivity, and resolution. Taking two or more geophysical data sets with complementary characteristics (e.g. having higher resolution at different depths) and combining their individual strengths to create a new improved structural model can help achieve higher accuracy and resolution power with respect to its original components while reducing their ambiguity and uncertainty effects. Gravity surveying constitutes a cheap, non-invasive, and non-destructive passive remote sensing method that helps to delineate variations in the gravity field. These variations can originate from regional anomalies due to deep density variations or from residual anomalies related to shallow density variations [41]. Since gravity anomaly inversions suffer from significant non-uniqueness (allowing two or more distinct density structures to have the same gravity signature) and small changes in parameters can highly impact the resulting model, the inversion of gravity data represents an ill-posed mathematical problem. However, gravity studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of this method to trace shallow subsurface density variations associated with structural changes [16]; therefore, it complements those geophysical methods with the same depth resolution that sample a different physical property (e.g. electromagnetic surveys sampling electric conductivity) or even those with different depth resolution sampling an alternative physical property (e.g. large scale seismic reflection surveys imaging the crust and top upper mantle using seismic velocity fields). In order to improve the resolution of Bouguer gravity anomalies, and reduce their ambiguity and uncertainty for the modeling of the shallow crust, we propose the implementation of primal-dual interior point methods for the optimization of density structure models through the introduction of physical constraints for transitional areas obtained from previously acquired geophysical data sets. This dissertation presents in Chapter 2 an initial forward model implementation for the calculation of Bouguer gravity anomalies in the Porphyry Copper-Molybdenum (Cu-Mo) Copper Flat Mine region located in Sierra County, New Mexico. In Chapter 3, we present a constrained optimization framework (using interior-point methods) for the inversion of 2-D models of Earth structures delineating density contrasts of anomalous bodies in uniform regions and/or boundaries between layers in layered environments. We implement the proposed algorithm using three different synthetic gravitational data sets with varying complexity. Specifically, we improve the 2-dimensional density structure models by getting rid of unacceptable solutions (geologically unfeasible models or those not satisfying the required constraints) given the reduction of the solution space. Chapter 4 shows the results from the implementation of our algorithm for the inversion of gravitational data obtained from the area surrounding the Porphyry Cu-Mo Cooper Flat Mine in Sierra County, NM. Information obtained from previous induced polarization surveys and core samples served as physical constraints for the inversion parameters. Finally, in order to achieve higher resolution, Chapter 5 introduces a 3-D theoretical framework for the joint inversion of Bouguer gravity anomalies and surface wave dispersion using interior-point methods. Through this work, we expect to contribute to the creation of additional tools for the development of 2- and 3-D models depicting the Earth's geological processes and to the widespread use of constrained optimization techniques for the inversion of geophysical data sets.

Subject Area

Applied Mathematics|Geophysics

Recommended Citation

Zamora, Azucena, "Optimization schemes for the inversion of Bouguer gravity anomalies" (2015). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10000763.