Time-domain electromagnetic data are conveniently inverted by using smoothly varying 1D models with fixed vertical discretization. The vertical smoothness of the obtained models stems from the application of Occam-type regularization constraints, which are meant to address the ill-posedness of the problem. An important side effect of such regularization, however, is that horizontal layer boundaries can no longer be accurately reproduced as the model is required to be smooth. This issue can be overcome by inverting for fewer layers with variable thicknesses; nevertheless, to decide on a particular and constant number of layers for the parameterization of a large survey inversion can be equally problematic.
Here, we present a focusing regularization technique to obtain the best of both methodologies. The new focusing approach allows for accurate reconstruction of resistivity distributions using a fixed vertical discretization while preserving the capability to reproduce horizontal boundaries. The formulation is flexible and can be coupled with traditional lateral/spatial smoothness constraints in order to resolve interfaces in stratified soils with no additional hypothesis about the number of layers. The method relies on minimizing the number of layers of non-vanishing resistivity gradient, instead of minimizing the norm of the model variation itself. This approach ensures that the results are consistent with the measured data while favouring, at the same time, the retrieval of horizontal abrupt changes. In addition, the focusing regularization can also be applied in the horizontal direction in order to promote the reconstruction of lateral boundaries such as faults.
We present the theoretical framework of our regularization methodology and illustrate its capabilities by means of both synthetic and field data sets. We further demonstrate how the concept has been integrated in our existing spatially constrained inversion formalism and show its application to large-scale time-domain electromagnetic data inversions.