The applicability and scalability of probabilistic inference in deep-learning-assisted geophysical inversion applications

  • Muhammad Izzatullah

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Probabilistic inference, especially in the Bayesian framework, is a foundation for quantifying uncertainties in geophysical inversion applications. However, due to the presence of high-dimensional datasets and the large-scale nature of geophysical inverse problems, the applicability and scalability of probabilistic inference face significant challenges for such applications. This thesis is dedicated to improving the probabilistic inference algorithms' scalability and demonstrating their applicability for large-scale geophysical inversion applications. In this thesis, I delve into three leading applied approaches in computing the Bayesian posterior distribution in geophysical inversion applications: Laplace's approximation, Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC), and variational Bayesian inference. The first approach, Laplace's approximation, is the simplest form of approximation for intractable Bayesian posteriors. However, its accuracy relies on the estimation of the posterior covariance matrix. I study the visualization of the misfit landscape in low-dimensional subspace and the low-rank approximations of the covariance for full waveform inversion (FWI). I demonstrate that a non-optimal Hessian's eigenvalues truncation for the low-rank approximation will affect the approximation accuracy of the standard deviation, leading to a biased statistical conclusion. Furthermore, I also demonstrate the propagation of uncertainties within the Bayesian physics-informed neural networks for hypocenter localization applications through this approach. For the MCMC approach, I develop approximate Langevin MCMC algorithms that provide fast sampling at efficient computational costs for large-scale Bayesian FWI; however, this inflates the variance due to asymptotic bias. To account for this asymptotic bias and assess their sample quality, I introduce the kernelized Stein discrepancy (KSD) as a diagnostic tool. When larger computational resources are available, exact MCMC algorithms (i.e., with a Metropolis-Hastings criterion) should be favored for an accurate posterior distribution statistical analysis. For the variational Bayesian inference, I propose a regularized variational inference framework that performs posterior inference by implicitly regularizing the Kullback-Leibler divergence loss with a deep denoiser through a Plug-and-Play method. I also developed Plug-and-Play Stein Variational Gradient Descent (PnP-SVGD), a novel algorithm to sample the regularized posterior distribution. The PnP-SVGD demonstrates its ability to produce high-resolution, trustworthy samples representative of the subsurface structures for a post-stack seismic inversion application.
Date of AwardApr 2023
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorTariq Ali Alkhalifah (Supervisor)


  • Probabilistic inference
  • Bayesian inference
  • Variational inference
  • MCMC
  • Laplace Approximation
  • Stein Variational Gradient Descent (SVGD)
  • Deep Learning
  • Machine Learning
  • Physics Informed Neural Network (PINN)
  • Full Waveform Inversion (FWI)
  • Post-Stack Inversion

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