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Adjustment of regularization in ill-posed linear inverse problems by the empirical Bayes approach

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Regularization is the most popular technique to overcome the null space of model parameters in geophysical inverse problems, and is implemented by including a constraint term as well as the data-misfit term in the objective function being minimized. The weighting of the constraint term relative to the data-fitting term is controlled by a regularization parameter, and its adjustment to obtain the best model has received much attention. The empirical Bayes approach discussed in this paper determines the optimum value of the regularization parameter from a given data set. The regularization term can be regarded as representing a priori information about the model parameters. The empirical Bayes approach and its more practical variant, Akaike's Bayesian Information Criterion, adjust the regularization parameter automatically in response to the level of data noise and to the suitability of the assumed a priori model information for the given data. When the noise level is high, the regularization parameter is made large, which means that the a priori information is emphasized. If the assumed a priori information is not suitable for the given data, the regularization parameter is made small. Both these behaviours are desirable characteristics for the regularized solutions of practical inverse problems. Four simple examples are presented to illustrate these characteristics for an underdetermined problem, a problem adopting an improper prior constraint and a problem having an unknown data variance, all frequently encountered geophysical inverse problems. Numerical experiments using Akaike's Bayesian Information Criterion for synthetic data provide results consistent with these characteristics. In addition, concerning the selection of an appropriate type of a priori model information, a comparison between four types of difference-operator model – the zeroth-, first-, second- and third-order difference-operator models – suggests that the automatic determination of the optimum regularization parameter becomes more difficult with increasing order of the difference operators. Accordingly, taking the effect of data noise into account, it is better to employ the lower-order difference-operator models for inversions of noisy data.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2004

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