The advantages of logarithmically scaled data for electromagnetic inversion

Wheelock, B, Constable S, Key K.  2015.  The advantages of logarithmically scaled data for electromagnetic inversion. Geophysical Journal International. 201:1765-1780.

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csem, field, Inverse theory, magnetotellurics, Marine electromagnetic, marine magnetotelluric data, models, resistivity, smooth


Non-linear inversion algorithms traverse a data misfit space over multiple iterations of trial models in search of either a global minimum or some target misfit contour. The success of the algorithm in reaching that objective depends upon the smoothness and predictability of the misfit space. For any given observation, there is no absolute form a datum must take, and therefore no absolute definition for the misfit space; in fact, there are many alternatives. However, not all misfit spaces are equal in terms of promoting the success of inversion. In this work, we appraise three common forms that complex data take in electromagnetic geophysical methods: real and imaginary components, a power of amplitude and phase, and logarithmic amplitude and phase. We find that the optimal form is logarithmic amplitude and phase. Single-parameter misfit curves of log-amplitude and phase data for both magnetotelluric and controlled-source electromagnetic methods are the smoothest of the three data forms and do not exhibit flattening at low model resistivities. Synthetic, multiparameter, 2-D inversions illustrate that log-amplitude and phase is the most robust data form, converging to the target misfit contour in the fewest steps regardless of starting model and the amount of noise added to the data; inversions using the other two data forms run slower or fail under various starting models and proportions of noise. It is observed that inversion with log-amplitude and phase data is nearly two times faster in converging to a solution than with other data types. We also assess the statistical consequences of transforming data in the ways discussed in this paper. With the exception of real and imaginary components, which are assumed to be Gaussian, all other data types do not produce an expected mean-squared misfit value of 1.00 at the true model (a common assumption) as the errors in the complex data become large. We recommend that real and imaginary data with errors larger than 10 per cent of the complex amplitude be withheld from a log-amplitude and phase inversion rather than retaining them with large error-bars.