Trans-dimensional Bayesian inversion of airborne transient EM data from Taylor Glacier, Antarctica

Daniel Blatter, Kerry Key, Anandaroop Ray, Neil Foley, Slawek Tulaczyk, Esben Auken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Conventional regularized nonlinear inversion methods for estimating electrical conductivity from observed electromagnetic data seek to find a single model that fits the data while minimizing a user-imposed model regularization norm. By contrast, Bayesian sampling techniques produce a large suite of models, all of which fit the data adequately, providing a wealth of statistical information about the model parameters. Importantly, this includes quantitative uncertainty estimates as well as any statistical property of interest. In this work, we apply a Bayesian trans-dimensional Markov chain Monte Carlo scheme to recover subsurface conductivity from airborne transient electromagnetic (TEM) data collected over Taylor Glacier, Antarctica, to image subglacial hydrologic structure. We provide a synthetic model study, followed by inversions of real soundings. Our results identify a zone of conductive, wet sediments beneath the glacier, corroborating interpretations from previous studies that used regularized, smooth inversions. Our results provide, however, the opportunity to examine a rich suite of additional information, including uncertainty estimates on the conductivity within the conductive subglacial layer as well as quantitative estimates of its total conductance. We apply principles of Bayesian information theory for estimating the depth of investigation of the airborne TEM data and apply it to this data set. Additionally, we use themodel ensemble to derive estimates of pore fluid resistivity within the conductive layer, with associated uncertainties. Finally, we use Bayesian model studies to explore the range of ice thicknesses and conductive layer thicknesses that could be resolved with ground or airborne TEM data if they had one to two orders of magnitude lower noise levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1919-1936
Number of pages18
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Antarctica
  • Electromagnetic induction
  • Hydrology
  • Inversion
  • Statistical methods

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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