Measuring the uncertainty in geological models

A scatter  plot of the observed height of some geological surfaces plotted against the height according to the 3D geological model at validation boreholes and the corresponding model predictions. Points on the line are where the model is exactly right.

The state-of-the-art way to present geological information is no longer the paper map, but is the three-dimensional model (more about geological modelling systems).  Such models are used by planners, engineers and regulators, but how reliable are they? 

In statistical modelling measures of uncertainty are produced with all predictions, but three-dimensional geological models are produced by expert geological interpretation, not by statistics.

We have very little robust quantitative information about the uncertainty of these models.  In order to fill this gap we undertook a designed experiment in which a group of modellers each modelled a common study area independently.  The models were tested at validation boreholes, and the results analysed to quantify model precision and to identify the relative importance of different sources of uncertainty. 

This is being developed in further work to benchmark model quality in different geological settings, and to develop routine methods for model assessment.

Read more about assessment of uncertainty in a 3D geological framework model


Contact Dr Murray Lark for more information