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Bayesian Inversion, Uncertainty Analysis and Interrogation using Boosting Variational Inference
  • Xuebin Zhao,
  • Andrew Curtis
Xuebin Zhao
University of Edinburgh

Corresponding Author:xuebin.zhao@ed.ac.uk

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Andrew Curtis
University of Edinburgh
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Geoscientists use observed data to estimate properties of the Earth’s interior. This often requires non-linear inverse problems to be solved and uncertainties to be estimated. Bayesian inference solves inverse problems under a probabilistic framework, in which uncertainty is represented by a so-called posterior probability distribution. Recently, variational inference has emerged as an efficient method to estimate Bayesian solutions. By seeking the closest approximation to the posterior distribution within any chosen family of distributions, variational inference yields a fully probabilistic solution. It is important to define expressive variational families so that the posterior distribution can be represented accurately. We introduce boosting variational inference (BVI) as a computationally efficient means to construct a flexible approximating family comprising all possible finite mixtures of simpler component distributions. We use Gaussian mixture components due to their fully parametric nature and the ease to optimise. We apply BVI to seismic travel time tomography and full waveform inversion, comparing its performance with other methods. The results demonstrate that BVI achieves reasonable efficiency and accuracy while enabling the construction of a fully analytic expression for the posterior distribution. Samples that represent major components of uncertainty in the solution can be obtained analytically from each mixture component. We demonstrate that these samples can be used to solve an interrogation problem: to assess the size of a subsurface target structure. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first method in geophysics that provides both analytic and reasonably accurate solutions to fully non-linear, high-dimensional Bayesian full waveform inversion problems.
08 Sep 2023Submitted to ESS Open Archive
11 Sep 2023Published in ESS Open Archive