Toward Seeing the Earth's Interior Through Unbiased Tomographic Lenses

Christophe Zaroli, Paula Koelemeijer, Sophie Lambotte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Geophysical tomographic studies traditionally exploit linear, damped least squares inversion methods. We demonstrate that the resulting models can be locally biased toward lower or higher amplitudes in regions of poor data illumination, potentially causing physical misinterpretations. For example, we show that global model S40RTS is locally biased toward higher amplitudes below isolated receivers where raypaths are quasi-vertical, such as on Hawaii. This leads to questions on the apparent low-velocity structure interpreted as the Hawaii hot spot. We prove that a linear Backus-Gilbert inversion scheme can bring the Earth's interior into focus through unbiased tomographic lenses, as its model estimates are constrained to be averages over the true model. It also efficiently computes the full generalized inverse required to infer both model resolution and its covariance, enabling quantitative interpretations of tomographic models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11,399-11,408
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number22
Early online date2 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2017


  • inverse theory
  • mantle
  • tomography

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