Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Mark T. Stewart

Co-Major Professor

Charles B. Connor


geophysical inversion, geothermal modeling, groundwater modeling, model error, tephra fallout modeling


The subject of this dissertation is use of computer models as data analysis tools in several different geoscience settings, including integrated surface water/groundwater modeling, tephra fallout modeling, geophysical inversion, and hydrothermal groundwater modeling. The dissertation is organized into three chapters, which correspond to three individual publication manuscripts.

In the first chapter, a linear framework is developed to identify and estimate the potential predictive consequences of using a simple computer model as a data analysis tool. The framework is applied to a complex integrated surface-water/groundwater numerical model with thousands of parameters. Several types of predictions are evaluated, including particle travel time and surface-water/groundwater exchange volume. The analysis suggests that model simplifications have the potential to corrupt many types of predictions. The implementation of the inversion, including how the objective function is formulated, what minimum of the objective function value is acceptable, and how expert knowledge is enforced on parameters, can greatly influence the manifestation of model simplification. Depending on the prediction, failure to specifically address each of these important issues during inversion is shown to degrade the reliability of some predictions. In some instances, inversion is shown to increase, rather than decrease, the uncertainty of a prediction, which defeats the purpose of using a model as a data analysis tool.

In the second chapter, an efficient inversion and uncertainty quantification approach is applied to a computer model of volcanic tephra transport and deposition. The computer model simulates many physical processes related to tephra transport and fallout. The utility of the approach is demonstrated for two eruption events. In both cases, the importance of uncertainty quantification is highlighted by exposing the variability in the conditioning provided by the observations used for inversion. The worth of different types of tephra data to reduce parameter uncertainty is evaluated, as is the importance of different observation error models. The analyses reveal the importance using tephra granulometry data for inversion, which results in reduced uncertainty for most eruption parameters.

In the third chapter, geophysical inversion is combined with hydrothermal modeling to evaluate the enthalpy of an undeveloped geothermal resource in a pull-apart basin located in southeastern Armenia. A high-dimensional gravity inversion is used to define the depth to the contact between the lower-density valley fill sediments and the higher-density surrounding host rock. The inverted basin depth distribution was used to define the hydrostratigraphy for the coupled groundwater-flow and heat-transport model that simulates the circulation of hydrothermal fluids in the system. Evaluation of several different geothermal system configurations indicates that the most likely system configuration is a low-enthalpy, liquid-dominated geothermal system.