Efficient fuzzy Bayesian inference algorithms for incorporating expert knowledge in parameter estimation

Mohammad Rajabi, Behzad Ataie-Ashtiani

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    25 Citations (Scopus)


    Bayesian inference has traditionally been conceived as the proper framework for the formal incorporation of expert knowledge in parameter estimation of groundwater models. However, conventional Bayesian inference is incapable of taking into account the imprecision essentially embedded in expert provided information. In order to solve this problem, a number of extensions to conventional Bayesian inference have been introduced in recent years. One of these extensions is 'fuzzy Bayesian inference' which is the result of integrating fuzzy techniques into Bayesian statistics. Fuzzy Bayesian inference has a number of desirable features which makes it an attractive approach for incorporating expert knowledge in the parameter estimation process of groundwater models: (1) it is well adapted to the nature of expert provided information, (2) it allows to distinguishably model both uncertainty and imprecision, and (3) it presents a framework for fusing expert provided information regarding the various inputs of the Bayesian inference algorithm. However an important obstacle in employing fuzzy Bayesian inference in groundwater numerical modeling applications is the computational burden, as the required number of numerical model simulations often becomes extremely exhaustive and often computationally infeasible. In this paper, a novel approach of accelerating the fuzzy Bayesian inference algorithm is proposed which is based on using approximate posterior distributions derived from surrogate modeling, as a screening tool in the computations. The proposed approach is first applied to a synthetic test case of seawater intrusion (SWI) in a coastal aquifer. It is shown that for this synthetic test case, the proposed approach decreases the number of required numerical simulations by an order of magnitude. Then the proposed approach is applied to a real-world test case involving three-dimensional numerical modeling of SWI in Kish Island, located in the Persian Gulf. An expert elicitation methodology is developed and applied to the real-world test case in order to provide a road map for the use of fuzzy Bayesian inference in groundwater modeling applications.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)255-272
    Number of pages18
    JournalJournal of Hydrology
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016


    • Expert knowledge
    • Fuzzy-Bayes
    • Groundwater modeling
    • Markov chain Monte Carlo
    • Polymorphic uncertainty
    • Polynomial chaos expansions


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