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GEOPHYSICS, VOL. 64, NO.2 (MARCH-APRIL 1999); P. 443-451,10 FIGS.

Upward continuation of scattered potential field data

Maurizio Fedi *, Antonio Rapolla *, and Guido Russot


source are known, the computation of the continued field is
straightforward. To find the source, its geometry must first be
fixed. For gravity data, Dampney (1969) chose a set of point
sources located on a plane below the data points. This configuration was, however, recognized as inefficient. Instead, GraberBrunner et al. (1991) placed an equivalent source layer made
of square, constant thickness prisms at a constant distance from
the surface that interpolates all measurement points. The optimum distance can be determined according to the results
of Xia and Sprowl (1991). The densities of the sources are
then calculated solving a system of linear algebraic equations.
Bhattacharyya and Chan (1977) chose a set of dipoles placed
at data points for magnetic data and an equivalent surface density distribution for gravity data. The dipole moments and the
density distribution are calculated solving a Fredholm integral equation of the second kind. For 2-D magnetic anomalies,
Hansen and Miyazaki (1984) considered a surface composed
of a set of plane faces with constant magnetic moment over
each face.
The method of Bhattacharyya and Chan is recognized to be
unstable when topography is very rugged. Another problem
is that rugged topography causes distortion in potential field
data because of the varying vertical separation of measurement points from the equivalent source. Several methods have
been proposed to overcome these limitations. We discuss those
by Pilkington and Urquhart (1990) and Xia et al. (1993). The
first consists of computing the equivalent source distribution
on a mirror image of the observed surface that is then replaced
by a horizontal plane. The second consists of determining the
equivalent source distribution on a horizontal plane by iterative forward calculation of the anomaly on the topographic
surface in the wavenumber domain.
All methods mentioned above need, in a direct or indirect
way, data measured on a regular grid. This is seldom the case,
so gridding must be used. However, as pointed out by Cordell
(1992), "Gridding embodies forgotten compromises made at
an early stage of analysis from which we may suffer from now
on." Scattered data in 3-D space are invariably gridded using 2-D algorithms, and the grid interval is often too small

ABSTRACT

Numerous methods have been used for upward continuation, but most of them require data on a regular
grid. Gridding can introduce errors that affect the continued data in an unpredictable way. To avoid this problem, we design a continuation operator used for the direct continuation of scattered data on a 3-D basis. In
this approach a harmonic function, satisfying the constraints imposed by the measured data, is developed.
The continuation is written in the form of a linear combination of the measured data, but it depends on the
arbitrary choice of the topographic zero level. However,
the coefficients of the linear combination depend only
on the position of the data points. This allows the zero
level to be estimated on the basis of the continuation of
synthetic anomalies calculated between the starting and
ending surface. An important feature of the method is
its local character, which allows the reduction of computation time. Also, the stability of the method for noisy
data is reasonably good. The method is applied to both
synthetic and real cases. Synthetic examples show how
gridding-related errors may affect the continuation when
an irregular distribution of data points and a variable topography are considered.

INTRODUCTION

Upward continuation of potential field data is widely used in


geophysics. It can be used, for example, to enhance the signal
of deeper sources when shallower ones are present. Upward
continuation becomes complicated when complex starting and
ending surfaces are used.
Many authors have proposed methods to deal with this
problem. The equivalent source method probably enjoys the
most popularity. It consists of finding an equivalent source
that fits the measured data. Once the characteristics of the

Manuscript received by the Editor October 28, 1996; revised manuscript received June 30, 1998.
*Dipartimento di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, University di Napoli "Federico II", Largo S. Marcellino 10, 80138 Naples, Italy. E-mail: fedi@axposf.dgv.
unina.it; rapolla@unina.it.
$Dipartimento di Scienze Fisiche, University di Napoli "Federico II", Mostra d'Oltremare, Pad. 16, 80125 Naples, Italy. E-mail: gguido.russo@
na.infn.it.
1999 Society of Exploration Geophysicists. All rights reserved.
443

Fedi et al.

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444

in some places and too large in others. Cordell proposed a


method based on the equivalent source concept. This consists
of calculating, iteratively, the densities at discrete points beneath a subset of data points at a depth proportional to the
distance to the nearest neighboring data point. This method
requires no linear systems of equations to be solved but leaves
one parameter to be determined by trial and error.
Among the methods that use scattered data are those of
Henderson and Cordell (1971), Parker and Klitgord (1972),
and Ducruix et al. (1974). The first consists of approximating
the gravity field by means of a finite harmonic series whose
coefficients are determined by least squares. In the 3-D case, the
order of the approximation is limited because a large number
of coefficients must be determined. For example, for a sixthorder harmonic series, at least 169 data points are required.
Accordingly, the solution involves the inversion of rather large
matrices. The second is a 2-D method based on the SchwarzChristoffel mapping of data lying on an uneven profile to points
on a straight line.
The third method, which expands the 2-D method of Courtillot et al. (1973) to three dimensions, calculates the continuation using an approximate expression of the continuation
operator in terms of trigonometric polynomials. This method
assumes that the anomaly field is band-limited; however, this
assumption is not necessary, and the same authors later proposed (Courtillot et al., 1978) a more general method, which
has been used for downward continuation of MAGSAT data
(Achache et al., 1987). A serious problem of upward continuation is that the continuation operator depends on the altitude
zero level (Courtillot et al., 1978), the choice of which may
distort the continued data.
We propose an inverse approach that does not create any
distortion effect because it uses an optimized zero level. It is
based on finding a harmonic function coinciding at data points
with the measured values. It has two remarkable characteristics. First, since no previous interpolation is needed, it can be
applied to scattered data sets. Second, the continuation operator has a local character because not all the points of the data
set contribute significantly to the continuation at a given point.
The number of calculations needed to perform continuation
is reduced, and there is no need for additional computational
time to perform the interpolation. The importance of direct
continuation of scattered data is that no arbitrary information
is introduced, in a direct or indirect way, that can cause unpredictable errors in the continued data.
THE CONTINUATION OPERATOR

where
G(r, r') _ m

where 1 is the potential, S is a closed surface, n' is the outward


normal of the element ds', r is the position of a point inside S, r'
is the position of a point on S, and s is the Green's function.
This formula can be rewritten as
(D(r) = 4^

ff
S

G(r r')(D(r') ds' = (G(r r') I ( D(r')) , ( 2 )


,

r) (3)

That is, the potential inside the volume defined by S is equal


to the scalar product defined on S of the kernel G and the
potential on the surface.
Consider a set of points Pi at positions r ; where the potential is known. If none of these points coincide and belong to
S, the set of G(r ; , r') = G ; (r') is a linearly independent set of
functions defined on S and generates a vectorial subspace V.
Any function t (r') defined on S can be written as the sum of
an element of V and an element of the orthogonal complement
V 1 of V:
4(r') = 4 v (r') +

:1(r'). (4)

On the other hand, we require that


(G 1 (r') I c(r')) = d, Vi,

(5)

where, for each i, d, is the measured datum. If we substitute


expression (4) into expression (5), we see that only the 1v
component of t (r') affects the value of di , so we may choose
O i 1 at will. Since

It(r)II Z = (t (r') I c(r')) = IlIv(r')11 2 + Il(D v l(r')11 2 ,


(6)

it follows that, if we require c1(r') to have the smallest possible


norm, (D v l must be the null vector. Hence, we can write

cI(r') =

a i G^(r'),

(7)

where the coefficients a, are determined using equation (5).


We have

(G(r') I c(r')) = Eaj(Gi I Gj) = Egjja'j = d1, (8)


where g,j = (G ; 1G 3 ). The matrix g of elements g, 1 is called the
Gram matrix. The left side of the last equality in equation (8)
represents the matrix product of the Gram matrix and the column vector whose components are the coefficients a. If we
premultiply both sides of the last equality by the inverse of the
Gram matrix, we obtain
a; _

gI.j ' dj .

(9)

Substituting this expression into equation (7) leads to

t(r')=G,(r')>g Ii t dj .

Consider the well-known continuation formula


(D(r) --4 7r.^,1 0(r) a an'' r) ds', (1)

ar,

(10)

An application of equation (10) to downward continuation


with G ; (r') expressed in spherical coordinates can be found
in Achache et al. (1987). We discuss its application to upward
continuation in Cartesian coordinates.
Consider a Cartesian coordinate reference system with the
vertical axis directed upward. Suppose that S is the plane z = 0,
and points inside S are those belonging to the half- space z > 0.
Let Q be one of these points, with position q. The function
G(r, q), when q - r', becomes
G(r,

r) 27L


[(x x') 2 + (y y') 2 + z2]3/2 .

(11)

445

Scattered Data Continuation

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This function is not a harmonic function of q because of the


singularity at q = r. However, Courtillot et al. (1978) found
a function H(r,
( q) that is harmonic inq such that H(i, q) =
G(r, q) when Q is on S, where r is the position of the image point
of P with respect to S (see Figure 1). Hence, by the definition
of g,j , we have
gij

= 4nff G(ri, r')G(r

Equation (17) can be recast as


^(r) _ ^ di ^ H(ij, r)gij l t = Ki di,

(18)

where

, r') ds'

Ki =

H(rj , r)g^j lt, (19)

= 4^

ff

G(r i r')H(i j r') ds'.

the superscript t indicates the matrix transpose, and K is the


continuation operator. From equations (18) and (19) it is seen
that the continued field is expressed by a linear combination of
the measured data. The coefficients of the linear combination
depend only on the spatial distribution of the data points.
The results above also apply to any derivative of the potential, such as the gravity field.
The matrix g is symmetric, so it is always diagonalizable and
its eigenvalues are real. If we call U the matrix whose columns
are the eigenvectors of g and A the diagonal matrix made up
by the eigenvalues of g, we have

(12)

Comparing this expression with equation (2) we see that


(13)

gij = H(ij, ri),

where

1 zi +zj
H(rJ

ri) = 27r [(xi x1)2

+ (yi yj ) 2 + (Zi + z1) 2 ]

(14)
Moreover, we have
ai (G(r r') I Gi (r'))

4)(r) _ (G(r, r') I t(r')) _


,

(20)

g 1 = (UAU') -1 = UA - lUt.

(21)

Note that

ai (G(r r) I H(ri r')),

g = UAU`.

(15)

where we used equation (7) and the fact that H(i, q) - G(r, q)
when Q is on S. Noting that, by equation (2),

(G(r, r') I H(ri, r')) = H(ri, r),

(16)

ch(r)=^H(ri,r)^gij l dj,

(17)

we can wnte

where we have used equation (9). The function 1(r) expressed


by equation (17) is harmonic in the half-space z > 0, and satisfies the condition 1)(r,) = d i for every i.

k)

FIG. 1. Geometric sketch for the continuation operator. The


potential is known at point Pi , while the continuation is required at point P. Point P is the image of P. Point Q is a
generic point belonging to half-space z > 0.

From this equation it is seen that the variance of the coefficients a i (and hence of') depends on a linear combination of
the inverse of the square of the eigenvalues. When some of the
eigenvalues are small, this variance can be large. Under this
condition it may be useful to discard the contribution related
to these eigenvalues to reduce the variance (Jackson, 1972).
This in turn reduces the model resolution (Backus and Gilbert,
1968, 1970). Trials must be made to reach the best compromise
between low variance and high resolution (Parker, 1977).
OPTIMIZATION OF THE CONTINUATION OPERATOR
Equation (17) can be simplified computationally because the
continuation operator has a local nature. Suppose that data
have been sampled on a regular grid of spacing S and that continuation is required to a point at height h right above point P.
If PP is a point at distance nS from P i , we have, by equation (11),
G j /G ; = 1/(1 + w2)312, with w=nS/h. The dimensionless parameter w is referred to as the half-width of the continuation
operator (Achache et al., 1987). For w = 3, G j / G ; = 0.03, indicating that points outside the half-width w = 3 contribute little
to D(r'), as expressed by equation (10). These points may be
discarded when continuation is performed, saving computation
time. However, greater values of w can be used when unevenly
sampled data on an irregular surface are considered. Too few
points may be within the half-width w = 3, thus not allowing
a sufficient sampling of the field. The result, then, of continuation may be poor. In this case the half-width is increased to
reach a sufficient sampling of the field.
It is important to note in equation (14) that the elements
of g depend on the choice of the zero topographic level. If
we consider the simple coordinate transformation z = Z + zo,
where zo is the new zero topographic level, we can rewrite

446

Fedi et al.

pears that the curves are scaled by an approximately constant


factor. Courtillot et al. (1978) interpreted this effect as smoothing. They pointed out that a choice of zo is equivalent to the
choice of a physical filter and that the greater zo, the stronger
the smoothing of t (r). We find, instead, that the effect of the
choice of zo is not generally equivalent to a simple smoothing
and must be studied carefully. In particular, we find that the
scaling effect occurs only for regularly spaced data on a flat
surface, since, in this case, matrix g has the same elements at
every point far enough from the borders. When scattered data
points on an irregular surface are considered, the effect is more
complex and can no longer be considered as a simple scaling.
Note the distribution of the eigenvalues of g for the two
cases of Figure 3a (Figure 3b). There is an apparent contradiction between the good conditioning of g and the poor result
of continuation in the case of Z = 0.1 km. Since the sampling
of the field is the same in both cases, one might expect a better result from this more stable case. This can be explained as
follows.
When Z << wh, the values of the line elements of g are peaked
around the value of the diagonal elements. Since g is nearly diagonal, its eigenvalues are nearly equal and g 1 is diagonal as
well. Moreover, the values of function H in equation (17) are
peaked around the value calculated at point P i right below
point P, where continuation is required (see Figure 2). Thus,
only the diagonal elements of g 1 , corresponding to points
immediately around Pi , contribute significantly to the sum in
equation (10). Under these circumstances g is well conditioned,
but the effective sampling of the field is not sufficient to allow
a good continuation.
When Z increases, the values of the elements of g are not
peaked any more and the elements of g' are equally weighted
in equation (17) by the functions H. The matrix g is more poorly
conditioned (see the curve for Z = 1.5 km in Figure 3b), but the
sampling of the field is sufficient to achieve good results.
If Z>> wh, some rows of g may become nearly equal, so that
the matrix may become numerically singular. This situation
must be avoided.
When real data are considered, the choice of the optimum
value of zo can be made as follows. Since the continuation

equation (14) as
r,)

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ZI + Z j + 2zo
2n [(xi x1) 2 + (yr y.i) 2 + (Z1 + Z 1 + 2zo) 2 ]

3/2

(22)

Consider the situation shown in Figure 2. A 1-km homogeneous cube with density of 4 g/cm 3 is centered 2.1 km below a
16 x 16-km grid of 0.4 km spacing. The gravity field is known
at the grid points, and continuation is performed along a profile parallel to a side of the grid passing through the center
of it, as shown in Figure 2. In this case Z, = Z j = Z for every i and j. In Figure 3a the results for Z=0.1 km (i.e., for
zo = 3 km) and Z =1.5 km (i.e., for zo =1.6 km) are shown.
While for Z =1.5 km the result of the continuation is highly
satisfactory, for Z = 0.1 km the continued profile lies well under the curve representing the exact result. In particular, it ap-

1 lrm

Zo

FIG. 2. Synthetic model used to evaluate the influence of the


zero level zo on the continuation. The 16 x 16-km and 0.4-km
spacing grid is at height Z with respect to zo. If z is the height
of the grid with respect to the ground, the equality z = zo + Z
holds. The source is a homogeneous cube of density 4 g/cm 3
centered below the grid. The width w is the half-width of the
continuation operator, and h = 0.5 km is the distance of continuation. Point Pi is a grid point. The continuation is required
at point P.

Z=0.1

km

3.5

Z=0.1 km b)

----- Z=1.5km

....................

2.5
.^+

a)

0.75

----- Z=1.5km

exact' \

I
i

'.

0.5

1.5
on

0.25

0.5

.d

.Y

v'C.`

0
0

distance (km)

12

16

10

20

30

40

FIG. 3. (a) Continued field at height Z + h along a profile parallel to the side of the grid passing through the center of the grid of
Figure 2 for Z = 1.5 km (dashed line) and Z = 0.1 km (solid line). The dotted line represents the exact values of the continued
anomaly. (b) Normalized eigenvalues for the same values of Z. The eigenvalues are numbered and ordered in descending order.

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Scattered Data Continuation

operator depends only on the spatial distribution of the data


points, a synthetic model can be built to generate a data set of
the field calculated at data point locations. The upward continuation of the synthetic data set and the rms error of the
continuation can be calculated for several values of zo. The
optimum choice of zo corresponds to the value that minimizes
the rms error (see example in Figure 9b). In our experience
in areas where the average density of data points is not lower
than one or two points per square kilometer, the optimum step
of search for zo is 0.1 km. Also, for scattered data the optimum
zo rarely exceeds 0.6 km below the height of the lowest data
point, so the number of steps needed to find the optimum zo is
limited.
CONTINUATION OF GRIDDED AND SCATTERED DATA

Having a method to perform direct continuation of irregularly spaced data is important because interpolation may, under
certain conditions, bias in an unpredictable fashion the results
of continuation. We previously pointed out that interpolation is
commonly performed using 2-D methods. Generally speaking,
potential fields are functions f (x, y, z) of three spatial coordinates. The 2-D interpolation algorithms can handle only functions f*(x, y) and ignore the vertical coordinate z. Moreover,
the errors resulting from the interpolation of an uneven sampled field are likely to vary over the resulting grid, being higher
where there are too few data. In other words, the interpolation
errors spread over the grid in an unpredictable fashion. We
now turn to a synthetic example.
Consider the model shown in Figure 4. The source under the
topographic relief is a 1.5 x 1.5 x 2.3-km homogeneous prism,
and its top is 0.7 km above ground level. Its density contrast is
0.4 g/cm 3 . The sources below the depressions are 1.5-km homogeneous cubes with a density contrast of 0.35 g/cm 3 and top at

FIG. 4. Synthetic model used to evaluate the effect of interpo-

lation on continuation. The units on the axis are kilometers.


Contour interval of the topography is 0.1 km. The gravity field,
not shown in the figure, is sampled along the labeled profiles
with spacing of about 0.4 km, yielding a set of 199 data points.

447

0.4 km below ground level. The other source is a 1.2 x 1.2 x


1.5-km homogeneous prism with a density contrast of
0.35 g/cm 3 and a top at 0.1 km below ground level. Seven profiles are shown, along which the gravity anomaly is sampled
with a 0.4-km spacing, yielding 199 data points. We interpolated these data using kriging and minimum curvature, obtaining two sets of 961 data each on a regular grid of 12 x 12 km and
a spacing of 0.4 km. For each of the three data sets, we computed
the upward continuation to a height of 1.2 km above ground
level along the profiles. For the noninterpolated data we chose
w = 5 and zo = -0.6 km; for the gridded data we chose w = 3
and z o = -0.5 km. To determine the optimum zo we followed
the procedure outlined in the previous section. Note that the
value zo = - 0.6 km is related to the rather large value of w
used. The value of w also influences the dimension of the Gram
matrix g. For the noninterpolated data the maximum dimension is 65, but on the border the dimension falls to about five.
The dimension of g is also very sensitive to the distribution of
points. For example, for the interpolated data the maximum
dimension is about 214, but we have found Gram matrices of
dimension up to 500.
Figure 5 shows continuation results along four of the profiles.
The effect of poor sampling of the field is seen in profile 4 (Figure 5a). The data point density is not sufficient to let the kriging
exactly reproduce the field because of the two sources situated
along the profile. The result of continuation using minimum
curvature is also shown. The difference between the curves
obtained using kriging and minimum curvature interpolated
data is evident. We found that, along all the profiles, continuation performed using data interpolated by minimum curvature
is always poorer than continuation performed using data interpolated by kriging. Thus, in the following figures only the curve
obtained using kriging interpolated data is shown. This example shows that, depending on the distribution of the points, different interpolators may give different results. This complicates
the procedure of both interpolation and continuation because
it is impossible to determine which interpolator is more suitable. The advantage of a continuation method dealing directly
with scattered data is obvious.
Profile 3 (Figure 5b) has the same problem. A lack of sampling occurs at the points around the middle of the profile; the
maximum difference between the continuation of the two data
sets occurs at those points. Since the distribution of the eigenvalues is similar along the profile, this disagreement must be
because of interpolator error.
The same conclusion can be drawn for profile 5 (Figure 5c).
The rapid variation of the field is not sufficiently sampled, so
the interpolator introduces errors that distort the continuation.
This is not the case for continuation performed on noninterpolated data.
Continuation is performed well for both data sets along profile 1 (Figure 5d). However, even here the noninterpolated data
result is slightly better. This profile cuts the main topographic
feature of the model, but note that the sampling within the
half-width w increases toward the top of the relief. Moreover,
the field has a near-radial symmetry around it. Thus, the data
on profile 1, as well as the data on profile 7, are sufficient for
the interpolator to reproduce the field well.
To evaluate the stability of our continuation method, we
added to the signal an independent Gaussian noise whose standard deviation is 10% of the datum value. Data <0.1 mGal are

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448

Fedi et al.

randomly substituted by a number between 0 and 0.1. Results


for profile 3 are shown in Figure 6. As expected, noise introduces some difference between the results, but in the worst
case the disagreement is 5-8%. A difference >10% was found
at only three points, located at the border of the survey area
where there is poor data sampling. The differences are rarely
>5%.

values were upward continued 0.2 km to a parallel topographic


surface.
Using this upward continuation process, we must choose the
optimum zero vertical level. As previously pointed out, we
take advantage of the fact that the continuation operator of
equation (19) is independent of the measured data. Thus, we
can use a synthetic model to find all the information needed;
then we apply the results to the measured data.
Note that the synthetic model can be chosen at will because
the continuation operator depends only on the position of data
points and on the continuation surface. Therefore, even if the
map of the measured data shows numerous anomalies, it is sufficient to consider a simple synthetic anomaly distribution for
seeking the optimum zero level. Figure 8 shows the anomaly
has two main minima, corresponding to the crater zone and
Colle Umberto. We used a synthetic model, made up of two

FIELD EXAMPLE

We applied our continuation method to a set of 383 gravity measurements collected at Mt. Vesuvius, Italy, during 1994
(Bruno et al., 1994). Topographic relief and station locations
are shown in Figure 7. The Bouguer anomaly map is shown in
Figure 8. To show that our method can be applied when the
continuation surface is irregular, the station Bouguer anomaly
1.75

I a)

__ -_

profile 4

1.5

2.5

min cum

. 1.25

b)

2 profile 3

aging

o-- non inU

1.5

exact

0.75
0.5
0.5

0.25
0

-{ topography

1 topograf

0.5

0.5

0
0

1.25

distance (km)

12

12

12

distance (km)

d)
profile 1

c)

1 profile 5
0.75
eo

0.5
0.25

YI

0.5

0.5

[.
0

FIG. 5.

distance (km)

12

horizontal distance (km)

Continuation of the gravity data defined by the synthetic model of Figure 4 to a height of 1.2 km above ground level. (a)
Gravity along profile 4. Squares represent the interpolated and continued data using kriging; triangles represent the interpolated
and continued data using minimum curvature; diamonds represent the noninterpolated continued data; and circles represent the
exact values. (b) Gravity along profile 3. (c) Gravity along profile 5. (d) Gravity along profile 1. Below each figure, the topography
along the profile is plotted.

Scattered Data Continuation

3.5 profile 3__ non interp


3
0

exact

2.5
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______ noisy non interp

,/Pk%

21.5

^ 1
0.5

topography

Z 0.5

12

distance (km)
FIG. 6. Continuation of noninterpolated data with noise.
Crosses represent the continuation of data with a Gaussian
noise whose standard deviation is 10% of the datum value. For
the other symbols, Figure 5.

449

prisms, that reproduces these two minima (Figure 9a). Upward continuation of the synthetic data set was computed for
several values of zero topographic level. The calculated rms
error results are shown in Figure 9b. We chose zo = 0.3 km
above sea level, which corresponds to the minimum rms
value.
We performed a standard eigenvalue analysis and found that
a condition number of 4000 is a good average value, even when
in some zones (like Colle Umberto) a greater value can be
used. The result of continuation is shown in Figure 10a. To
assess the goodness of our calculation, we again exploited the
synthetic model. We continued the synthetic field using the
same conditioning as before, and we determined the residuals
between calculated and exact field (Figure 10b). The maximum
error is concentrated in the northwestern part of the data set,
while the field in the crater zone is generally well resolved.
Since we cannot determine the experimental error, we cannot
assess its effect on the continuation as we did in the previous
section (see Figure 6).
CONCLUSION
We have developed a method for upward continuation of
scattered 3-D potential field data. The importance of having
a method for upward continuation of scattered data resides
in the fact that interpolation of data may introduce wrong information into the gridded data set. The errors are mainly the

FIG. 7. Location of data points of the gravity survey of Mt. Vesuvius (from Bruno et al., 1994, modified). During 1994, 383 gravity
measurements were collected. Shaded in the center of the figure is the crater; the topographic high northwest of it is Colle Umberto.
Mt. Somma can be recognized in the northernmost part of the figure. The contour interval is 50 m. On the axis are the distances
(kilometers) from the 14E longitude meridian (horizontal axis) and the 4040' N latitude parallel (vertical axis).

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450

Fedi et al.

Bouguer anomaly map resulting from the analysis of


the data of Figure 7. The contour interval is 1 mGal.

FIG. 8.

FIG. 9.

result of applying a 2-D algorithm to grid 3-D data and because


the chosen grid spacing may be inadequate.
The method we developed is based on a continuation operator that has a local character, so it can operate only on a subset
of the data. Hence, it is numerically efficient. Its performance
on scattered data without noise is highly satisfactory. We also
tested it using data with superimposed Gaussian noise whose
standard deviation is equal, at each point, to the 10% of the datum without noise. The method was found stable, giving results
to within 5 to 8% of data without noise.
The field application shows that the dependence of the continuation operator on the zero topographic level can be optimized with the use of a synthetic model. If an estimate of the
data error is known, it is possible to find the best conditioning
at every data point with the same synthetic model. This conditioning can in turn be applied to the continuation of field
data. Otherwise, a standard eigenvalue analysis must be carried out, but the synthetic model can again be used to assess
the goodness of the continuation.

(a) Synthetic field used to evaluate the optimum zero level. The contour interval is 0.3 mGal. (b) The rms of the continuation
of synthetic data for various values of the zero level, Z.

(a) Continuation of real data on a surface parallel to the topographic surface at 0.2 km. The contour interval is 1 mGal.
(b) Map of the residuals between the continued synthetic data calculated with the same conditioning as (a) and the exact data. The
contour interval is 0.1 mGal.

FIG. 10.

Scattered Data Continuation

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