Improved extraction of hydrologic information from geophysical data through coupled hydrogeophysical inversion



[1] There is increasing interest in the use of multiple measurement types, including indirect (geophysical) methods, to constrain hydrologic interpretations. To date, most examples integrating geophysical measurements in hydrology have followed a three-step, uncoupled inverse approach. This approach begins with independent geophysical inversion to infer the spatial and/or temporal distribution of a geophysical property (e.g., electrical conductivity). The geophysical property is then converted to a hydrologic property (e.g., water content) through a petrophysical relation. The inferred hydrologic property is then used either independently or together with direct hydrologic observations to constrain a hydrologic inversion. We present an alternative approach, coupled inversion, which relies on direct coupling of hydrologic models and geophysical models during inversion. We compare the abilities of coupled and uncoupled inversion using a synthetic example where surface-based electrical conductivity surveys are used to monitor one-dimensional infiltration and redistribution. Through this illustrative example, we show that the coupled approach can provide significant reductions in uncertainty for hydrologic properties and associated predictions if the underlying model is a faithful representation of the hydrologic processes. However, if the hydrologic model exhibits structural errors, the coupled inversion may not improve the hydrologic interpretation. Despite this limitation, our results support the use of coupled hydrogeophysical inversion both for the direct benefits of reduced errors during inversion and because of the secondary benefits that accrue because of the extensive communication and sharing of data necessary to produce a coupled model, which will likely lead to more thoughtful use of geophysical data in hydrologic studies.