A probabilistic geologic model of the Krafla geothermal system constrained by gravimetric data

Samuel Scott, Cari Covell, Egill Júlíusson, Águst Valfells, Juliet Newson, Birgir Hrafnkelsson, Halldór Pálsson, María Gudjónsdóttir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The quantitative connections between subsurface geologic structure and measured geophysical data allow 3D geologic models to be tested against measurements and geophysical anomalies to be interpreted in terms of geologic structure. Using a Bayesian framework, geophysical inversions are constrained by prior information in the form of a reference geologic model and probability density functions (pdfs) describing petrophysical properties of the different lithologic units. However, it is challenging to select the probabilistic weights and the structure of the prior model in such a way that the inversion process retains relevant geologic insights from the prior while also exploring the full range of plausible subsurface models. In this study, we investigate how the uncertainty of the prior (expressed using probabilistic constraints on commonality and shape) controls the inferred lithologic and mass density structure obtained by probabilistic inversion of gravimetric data measured at the Krafla geothermal system. We combine a reference prior geologic model with statistics for rock properties (grain density and porosity) in a Bayesian inference framework implemented in the GeoModeller software package. Posterior probability distributions for the inferred lithologic structure, mass density distribution, and uncertainty quantification metrics depend on the assumed geologic constraints and measurement error. As the uncertainty of the reference prior geologic model increases, the posterior lithologic structure deviates from the reference prior model in areas where it may be most likely to be inconsistent with the observed gravity data and may need to be revised. In Krafla, the strength of the gravity field reflects variations in the thickness of hyaloclastite and the depth to high-density basement intrusions. Moreover, the posterior results suggest that a WNW–ESE-oriented gravity low that transects the caldera may be associated with a zone of low hyaloclastite density. This study underscores the importance of reliable prior constraints on lithologic structure and rock properties during Bayesian geophysical inversion.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages29
JournalGeothermal Energy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sep 2019

Other keywords

  • Bayesian inference
  • Geologic modeling
  • Gravity
  • Iceland
  • Líkindafræði
  • Jarðhitasvæði
  • Krafla
  • Þyngdarafl
  • Líkanagerð


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