Hessian-based response surface approximations for uncertainty quantification in large-scale statistical inverse problems, with applications to groundwater flow
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Subsurface flow phenomena characterize many important societal issues in energy and the environment. A key feature of these problems is that subsurface properties are uncertain, due to the sparsity of direct observations of the subsurface. The Bayesian formulation of this inverse problem provides a systematic framework for inferring uncertainty in the properties given uncertainties in the data, the forward model, and prior knowledge of the properties. We address the problem: given noisy measurements of the head, the pdf describing the noise, prior information in the form of a pdf of the hydraulic conductivity, and a groundwater flow model relating the head to the hydraulic conductivity, find the posterior probability density function (pdf) of the parameters describing the hydraulic conductivity field. Unfortunately, conventional sampling of this pdf to compute statistical moments is intractable for problems governed by large-scale forward models and high-dimensional parameter spaces. We construct a Gaussian process surrogate of the posterior pdf based on Bayesian interpolation between a set of "training" points. We employ a greedy algorithm to find the training points by solving a sequence of optimization problems where each new training point is placed at the maximizer of the error in the approximation. Scalable Newton optimization methods solve this "optimal" training point problem. We tailor the Gaussian process surrogate to the curvature of the underlying posterior pdf according to the Hessian of the log posterior at a subset of training points, made computationally tractable by a low-rank approximation of the data misfit Hessian. A Gaussian mixture approximation of the posterior is extracted from the Gaussian process surrogate, and used as a proposal in a Markov chain Monte Carlo method for sampling both the surrogate as well as the true posterior. The Gaussian process surrogate is used as a first stage approximation in a two-stage delayed acceptance MCMC method. We provide evidence for the viability of the low-rank approximation of the Hessian through numerical experiments on a large scale atmospheric contaminant transport problem and analysis of an infinite dimensional model problem. We provide similar results for our groundwater problem. We then present results from the proposed MCMC algorithms.