Optimal transport for variational data assimilation

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Usually data assimilation methods evaluate observation-model misfits using weighted L2 distances. However, it is not well suited when observed features are present in the model with position error. In this context, the Wasserstein distance stemming from optimal transport theory is more relevant. This paper proposes the adaptation of variational data assimilation for the use of such a measure. It provides a short introduction of optimal transport theory and discusses the importance of a proper choice of scalar product to compute the cost function gradient. It also extends the discussion to the way the descent is performed within the minimization process. These algorithmic changes are tested on a nonlinear shallow-water model, leading to the conclusion that optimal transport-based data assimilation seems to be promising to capture position errors in the model trajectory.




Feyeux, N., Vidard, A., & Nodet, M. (2018). Optimal transport for variational data assimilation. Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics, 25(1), 55–66. https://doi.org/10.5194/npg-25-55-2018

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