This paper is the second of a set of two papers in which we study the inverse refraction problem. The first paper, "Types of Geophysical Nonuniqueness through Minimization," studies and classifies the types of nonuniqueness that exist when solving inverse problems depending on the participation of a priori information required to obtain reliable solutions of inverse geophysical problems. In view of the classification developed, in this paper we study the type of nonuniqueness associated with the inverse refraction problem. An approach for obtaining a realistic solution to the inverse refraction problem is offered in a third paper that is in preparation. The nonuniqueness of the inverse refraction problem is examined by using a simple three-layer model. Like many other inverse geophysical problems, the inverse refraction problem does not have a unique solution. Conventionally, nonuniqueness is considered to be a result of insufficient data and/or error in the data, for any fixed number of model parameters. This study illustrates that even for overdetermined and error free data, nonlinear inverse refraction problems exhibit exact-data nonuniqueness, which further complicates the problem of nonuniqueness. By evaluating the nonuniqueness of the inverse refraction problem, this paper targets the improvement of refraction inversion algorithms, and as a result, the achievement of more realistic solutions. The nonuniqueness of the inverse refraction problem is examined initially by using a simple three-layer model. The observations and conclusions of the three-layer model nonuniqueness study are used to evaluate the nonuniqueness of more complicated n-layer models and multi-parameter cell models such as in refraction tomography. For any fixed number of model parameters, the inverse refraction problem exhibits continuous ranges of exact-data nonuniqueness. Such an unfavorable type of nonuniqueness can be uniquely solved only by providing abundant a priori information. Insufficient a priori information during the inversion is the reason why refraction methods often may not produce desired results or even fail. This work also demonstrates that the application of the smoothing constraints, typical when solving ill-posed inverse problems, has a dual and contradictory role when applied to the ill-posed inverse problem of refraction travel times. This observation indicates that smoothing constraints may play such a two-fold role when applied to other inverse problems. Other factors that contribute to inverse-refraction-problem nonuniqueness are also considered, including indeterminacy, statistical data-error distribution, numerical error and instability, finite data, and model parameters. ?? Birkha??user Verlag, Basel, 2005.
Additional publication details
The inverse problem of refraction travel times, part II: Quantifying refraction nonuniqueness using a three-layer model