An important requirement for a comprehensive seismic monitoring system is the capability to accurately locate small seismic events worldwide. Accurate event location can improve the probability of determining whether or not a small event, recorded predominantly by local and regional stations, is a nuclear explosion. For those portions of the earth where crustal velocities are not well established, reference event calibration techniques offer a method of increased locational accuracy and reduced locational bias.
In this study, data from a set of mining events with good ground-truth data in the Powder River Basin region of eastern Wyoming are used to investigate the potential of event calibration techniques in the area. Results of this study are compared with locations published in the prototype International Data Center’s Reviewed Event Bulletin (REB). A Joint Hypocenter Determination (JHD) method was applied to a set of 23 events. Four of those events with superior ground-truth control (mining company report or Global Positioning System data) were used as JHD reference events, Nineteen (83%) of the solutions converged and the resulting set of station-phase travel-time corrections from the JHD results was then tested. When those travel-time corrections were applied individually to the four events with good ground-truth control, the average locational error reduced the original REB location error from 16.1 km to 5.7 km (65% improvement). The JHD locations indicated reduced locational bias and all of the individual error ellipses enclosed the actual known event locations.
Given a set of well-recorded calibration events, it appears that the JHD methodology is a viable technique for improving locational accuracy of future small events where the location depends on arrival times from predominantly local and/or regional stations. In this specific case, the International Association of Seismology and the Physics of the Earth’s Interior (IASPEI) travel-time tables, coupled with JHDderived travel-time corrections, may obviate the need for an accurately known regional velocity structure in the Powder River Basin region.