Inverting elastic dislocations using the Weakly-enforced Slip Method

Gertjan van Zwieten, E. Harald van Brummelen*, Ramon F. Hanssen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Earthquakes cause lasting changes in static equilibrium, resulting in global deformation fields that can be observed. Consequently, deformation measurements such as those provided by satellite based InSAR monitoring can be used to infer an earthquake's faulting mechanism. This inverse problem requires a numerical forward model that is both accurate and fast, as typical inverse procedures require many evaluations. The Weakly-enforced Slip Method (WSM) was developed to meet these needs, but it was not before applied in an inverse problem setting. Consequently, it was unknown what affects particular properties of the WSM, notably its inherent continuity, have on the inversion process. Here we show that the WSM can accurately recover slip distributions in a Bayesian-inference setting, provided that data points in the vicinity of the fault are removed. In a representative scenario, an element size of 1 km was found to be sufficiently fine to generate a posterior probability distribution that is close to the theoretical optimum. For rupturing faults a masking zone of 10 km sufficed to avoid numerical disturbances that would otherwise be induced by the discretization error. These results demonstrate that the WSM is a viable forward method for earthquake inversion problems. While our synthesized scenario is basic for reasons of validation, our results are expected to generalize to the wider gamut of scenarios that finite element methods are able to capture. This has the potential to bring modeling flexibility to a field that is often forced to impose model restrictions in a concession to computability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1729-1753
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal for Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Bayesian inference
  • elastic dislocation
  • inverse problem


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