Gravity and magnetic joint inversion for basement and salt structures with the reversible-jump algorithm

Emad Ghalenoei, Jan Dettmer, Mohammed Y. Ali, Jeong Woo Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Gravity and magnetic data resolve the Earth with variable spatial resolution, and Earth structure exhibits both discontinuous and gradual features. Therefore, model parametrization complexity should be able to address such variability by locally adapting to the resolving power of the data. The reversible-jump Markov chain Monte Carlo (rjMcMC) algorithm provides variable spatial resolution that is consistent with data information. To address the prevalent non-uniqueness in joint inversion of potential field data, we use a novel spatial partitioning with nested Voronoi cells that is explored by rjMcMC sampling. The nested Voronoi parametrization partitions the subsurface in terms of rock types, such as sedimentary, salt and basement rocks. Therefore, meaningful prior information can be specified for each type which reduces non-uniqueness. We apply nonoverlapping prior distributions for density contrast and susceptibility between rock types. In addition, the choice of noise parametrization can lead to significant trade-offs with model resolution and complexity. We adopt an empirical estimation of full data covariance matrices that include theory and observational errors to account for spatially correlated noise. The method is applied to 2-D gravity and magnetic data to study salt and basement structures. We demonstrate that meaningful partitioning of the subsurface into sediment, salt, and basement structures is achieved by these advances without requiring regularization. Multiple simulated- and field-data examples are presented. Simulation results show clear delineation of salt and basement structures while resolving variable length scales. The field data show results that are consistent with observations made in the simulations. In particular, we resolve geologically plausible structures with varying length scales and clearly differentiate salt structure and basement topography.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)746-758
Number of pages13
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • Gravity anomalies and Earth structure
  • Inverse theory
  • Joint inversion
  • Magnetic anomalies: modelling and interpretation
  • Probability distributions
  • Statistical methods


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