Source geometry estimation using the mass excess criterion to constrain 3-D radial inversion of gravity data

(2011) Vanderlei C. Oliveira Jr., Valéria C. F. Barbosa, João B. C. Silva


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Oliveira Jr, V. C., V. C. F. Barbosa, and J. B. C. Silva (2011), Source geometry estimation using the mass excess criterion to constrain 3-D radial inversion of gravity data, Geophysical Journal International, 187(2), 754-772, doi:10.1111/j.1365-246X.2011.05172.x.

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We present a gravity-inversion method for estimating the geometry of an isolated 3-D source, assuming prior knowledge about its top and density contrast. The subsurface region containing the geological sources is discretized into an ensemble of 3-D vertical prisms juxtaposed in the vertical direction of a right-handed coordinate system. The prisms’ thicknesses and density contrasts are known, but their horizontal cross-sections are described by unknown polygons. The horizontal coordinates of the polygon vertices approximately represent the edges of horizontal depth slices of the 3-D geological source. The polygon vertices of each prism are described by polar coordinates with an unknown origin within the prism. Our method estimates the horizontal Cartesian coordinates of the unknown origin and the radii associated with the vertices of each polygon for a fixed number of equally spaced central angles from 0o to 360o. By estimating these parameters from gravity data, we retrieve a set of vertically stacked prisms with polygonal horizontal sections that represents a set of juxtaposed horizontal depth slices of the estimated source. This set, therefore, approximates the 3-D source's geometry. To obtain stable estimates we impose constraints on the source shape. The judicious use of first-order Tikhonov regularization on either all or a few parameters allows estimating both vertical and inclined sources whose shapes can be isometric or anisometric. The estimated solution, despite being stable and fitting the data, will depend on the maximum depth assumed for the set of juxtaposed 3-D prisms. To reduce the class of possible solutions compatible with the gravity anomaly and the constraints, we use a criterion based on the relationship between the data-misfit measure and the estimated total-anomalous mass computed along successive inversions, using different tentative maximum depths for the set of assumed juxtaposed 3-D prisms. In applying this criterion, we plotted the curve of the estimated total-anomalous mass mt versus data-misfit measure s for the range of different tentative maximum depths. The tentative value for the maximum depth producing the smallest value of data-misfit measure in the mt×s curve is the best estimate of the true (or minimum) depth to the bottom of the source, depending on whether the true source produces a gravity anomaly that is able (or not) to resolve the depth to the source bottom. This criterion was theoretically deduced from Gauss’ theorem. Tests with synthetic data shows that the correct depth-to-bottom estimate of the source is obtained if the minimum of s on the mt×s curve is well defined; otherwise this criterion provides just a lower bound estimate of the source's depth to the bottom. These synthetic results show that the method efficiently recovers source geometries dipping at different angles. Test on real data from the Matsitama intrusive complex (Botswana) retrieved a dipping intrusion with variable dips and strikes and with bottom depth of 8.0 ± 0.5 km.


    title = {Source geometry estimation using the mass excess criterion to constrain 3-{D} radial inversion of gravity data},
    volume = {187},
    issn = {1365-246X},
    doi = {10.1111/j.1365-246X.2011.05172.x},
    number = {2},
    journal = {Geophysical Journal International},
    author = {Oliveira Jr, Vanderlei C. and {Barbosa}, Val{\'e}ria C. F. and {Silva}, Jo{\~a}o B. C.},
    year = {2011},
    pages = {754--772},