Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth

Reconciling a geophysical model to data using a Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithm: An application to the Yellow Sea–Korean Peninsula region



[1] In an effort to build seismic models that are the most consistent with multiple data sets we have applied a new probabilistic inverse technique. This method uses a Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) algorithm to sample models from a prior distribution and test them against multiple data types to generate a posterior distribution. While computationally expensive, this approach has several advantages over deterministic models, notably the seamless reconciliation of different data types that constrain the model, the proper handling of both data and model uncertainties, and the ability to easily incorporate a variety of prior information, all in a straightforward, natural fashion. A real advantage of the technique is that it provides a more complete picture of the solution space. By mapping out the posterior probability density function, we can avoid simplistic assumptions about the model space and allow alternative solutions to be identified, compared, and ranked. Here we use this method to determine the crust and upper mantle structure of the Yellow Sea and Korean Peninsula region. The model is parameterized as a series of seven layers in a regular latitude-longitude grid, each of which is characterized by thickness and seismic parameters (Vp, Vs, and density). We use surface wave dispersion and body wave traveltime data to drive the model. We find that when properly tuned (i.e., the Markov chains have had adequate time to fully sample the model space and the inversion has converged), the technique behaves as expected. The posterior model reflects the prior information at the edge of the model where there is little or no data to constrain adjustments, but the range of acceptable models is significantly reduced in data-rich regions, producing values of sediment thickness, crustal thickness, and upper mantle velocities consistent with expectations based on knowledge of the regional tectonic setting.