Improved location procedures at the International Seismological Centre



The International Seismological Centre (ISC) is a non-governmental, non-profit organization with the primary mission of producing the definitive account of the Earth's seismicity. The ISC Bulletin covers some 50 yr (1960–2011) of seismicity. The recent years have seen a dramatic increase both in the number of reported events and especially in the number of reported phases, owing to the ever-increasing number of stations worldwide. Similar ray paths will produce correlated traveltime prediction errors due to unmodelled heterogeneities in the Earth, resulting in underestimated location uncertainties, and for unfavourable network geometries, location bias. Hence, the denser and more unbalanced the global seismic station coverage becomes, the less defensible is the assumption (that is the observations are independent), which is made by most location algorithms.

To address this challenge we have developed a new location algorithm for the ISC that accounts for correlated error structure, and uses all IASPEI standard phases with a valid ak135 traveltime prediction to obtain more accurate event locations. In this paper we describe the new ISC locator, and present validation tests by relocating the ground truth events in the IASPEI Reference Event List, as well as by relocating the entire ISC Bulletin.

We show that the new ISC location algorithm provides small, but consistent location improvements, considerable improvements in depth determination and significantly more accurate formal uncertainty estimates. We demonstrate that the new algorithm, through the use of later phases and testing for depth resolution, considerably clusters event locations more tightly, thus providing an improved view of the seismicity of the Earth.