On variational downscaling, fusion, and assimilation of hydrometeorological states: A unified framework via regularization

A. M. Ebtehaj, E. Foufoula-Georgiou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Improved estimation of hydrometeorological states from down-sampled observations and background model forecasts in a noisy environment has been a subject of growing research in the past decades. Here we introduce a unified variational framework that ties together the problems of downscaling, data fusion, and data assimilation as ill-posed inverse problems. This framework seeks solutions beyond the classic least squares estimation paradigms by imposing a proper regularization, expressed as a constraint consistent with the degree of smoothness and/or probabilistic structure of the underlying state. We review relevant smoothing norm regularization methods in derivative space and extend classic formulations of the aforementioned problems with particular emphasis on land surface hydrometeorological applications. Our results demonstrate that proper regularization of downscaling, data fusion, and data assimilation problems can lead to more accurate and stable recovery of the underlying non-Gaussian state of interest with improved performance in capturing isolated and jump singularities. In particular, we show that the Huber regularization in the derivative space offers advantages, compared to the classic solution and the Tikhonov regularization, for spatial downscaling and fusion of non-Gaussian multisensor precipitation data. Furthermore, we explore the use of Huber regularization in a variational data assimilation experiment while the initial state of interest exhibits jump discontinuities and non-Gaussian probabilistic structure. To this end, we focus on the heat equation motivated by its fundamental application in the study of land surface heat and mass fluxes. Key Points Downscaling, data fusion and assimilation as regularized inverse problems Addressing non-Gaussianity of hydro-meteorological states

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5944-5963
Number of pages20
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Maximum a posteriori estimator
  • data fusion and assimilation
  • discrete inverse problems
  • downscaling
  • regularization
  • sparse representation
  • variational principle

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