Estimating geodynamic model parameters from geodetic observations using a particle method

Celine Marsman*, Femke Vossepoel, Ylona van Dinther, Rob Govers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Bayesian-based data assimilation methods integrate observational data into geophysical forward models to obtain the temporal evolution of an improved state vector, including its uncertainties. We explore the potential of a variant, a particle method, to estimate mechanical parameters of the overriding plate during the interseismic period. Here we assimilate vertical surface displacements into an elementary flexural model to estimate the elastic thickness of the overriding plate, and the locations and magnitudes of line loads acting on the overriding plate to produce flexure. Assimilation of synthetic observations sampled from a different forward model than is used in the particle method, reveal that synthetic seafloor data within 150 km from the trench are required to properly constrain parameters for long wavelength solutions of the upper plate (i.e. wavelength ∼500 km). Assimilation of synthetic observations sampled from the same flexural model used in the particle method shows remarkable convergence towards the true parameters with synthetic on-land data only for short to intermediate wavelength solutions (i.e. wavelengths between ∼100 and 300 km). In real-data assimilation experiments we assign representation errors due to discrepancies between our incorrect or incomplete physical model and the data. When assimilating continental data prior to the 2011 Mw Tohoku-Oki earthquake (1997–2000), an unrealistically low effective elastic plate thickness for Tohoku of ∼5–7 km is estimated. Our synthetic experiments suggest that improvements to the physical forward model, such as the inclusion of a slab, a megathrust interface and viscoelasticity of the mantle, including accurate seafloor data, and additional geodetic observations, may refine our estimates of the effective elastic plate thickness. Overall, we demonstrate the potential of using the particle method to constrain geodynamic parameters by providing constraints on parameters and corresponding uncertainty values. Using the particle method, we provide insights into the data network sensitivity and identify parameter trade-offs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1183-1205
Number of pages23
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Inverse theory
  • Lithospheric flexure
  • Probabilistic forecasting
  • Statistical methods
  • Subduction zone processes
  • Time-series analysis


Dive into the research topics of 'Estimating geodynamic model parameters from geodetic observations using a particle method'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this