• body waves;
  • core phases;
  • earthquake location;
  • seismic phase identification;
  • traveltimes


Over the last three years, a major international effort has been made by the Sub-Commission on Earthquake Algorithms of the International Association of Seismology and the Physics of the Earth's Interior (IASPEI) to generate new global traveltime tables for seismic phases to update the tables of Jeffreys & Bullen (1940). The new tables are specifically designed for convenient computational use, with high-accuracy interpolation in both depth and range. The new iasp91 traveltime tables are derived from a radially stratified velocity model which has been constructed so that the times for the major seismic phases are consistent with the reported times for events in the catalogue of the International Seismological Centre (ISC) for the period 1964–1987. The baseline for the P-wave traveltimes in the iasp91 model has been adjusted to provide only a small bias in origin time for well-constrained events at the main nuclear testing sites around the world.

For P-waves at teleseismic distances, the new tables are about 0.7s slower than the 1968 P-tables (Herrin 1968) and on average about 1.8–1.9 s faster than the Jeffreys & Bullen (1940) tables. For S-waves the teleseismic times lie between those of the JB tables and the results of Randall (1971).

Because the times for all phases are derived from the same velocity model, there is complete consistency between the traveltimes for different phases at different focal depths. The calculation scheme adopted for the new iasp91 tables is that proposed by Buland & Chapman (1983). Tables of delay time as a function of slowness are stored for each traveltime branch, and interpolated using a specially designed tau spline which takes care of square-root singularities in the derivative of the traveltime curve at certain critical slownesses. With this representation, once the source depth is specified, it is straightforward to find the traveltime explicitly for a given epicentral distance. The computational cost is no higher than a conventional look-up table, but there is increased accuracy in constructing the traveltimes for a source at arbitrary depth. A further advantage over standard tables is that exactly the same procedure can be used for each phase. For a given source depth, it is therefore possible to generate very rapidly a comprehensive list of traveltimes and associated derivatives for the main seismic phases which could be observed at a given epicentral distance.