Resolving the location of small intracontinental earthquakes using Open Access seismic and geodetic data: lessons from the 18 January 2017 mb 4.3, Niger, earthquake

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Timothy J Craig, Steven J. Gibbons


A low-magnitude earthquake was recorded on January 18, 2017, in the T\'{e}n\'{e}r\'{e} desert in Niger. This intraplate region is exceptionally sparsely covered with seismic stations and the closest open seismic station, G.TAM in Algeria at a distance of approximately 600 km, was unusually and unfortunately not operational at the time of the event. Body-wave magnitude estimates range from $m_b 4.2$ to $m_b 4.6$ and both seismic location and magnitude constraints are dominated by stations at teleseismic distances. The seismic constraints are strengthened considerably by array stations of the International Monitoring System for verifying compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty. This event, with magnitude relevant to low-yield nuclear tests, provides a valuable validation of the detection and location procedure for small land-based seismic disturbances at significant distances. For seismologists not in the CTBT system, the event is problematic as data from many of the key stations are not openly available. We examine the uncertainty in published routinely-determined epicenters by performing multiple Bayesloc location estimates with published arrival times considering both all published arrival times and those from open stations only. This location exercise confirms lateral uncertainties in seismologically-derived location no smaller than 10 km. Coherence for InSAR in this region is exceptionally high, and allows us to confidently detect a displacement of the order 6 mm in the time-frame containing the earthquake, consistent with the seismic location estimates, and with a lateral length scale consistent with an earthquake of this size, allowing location constraint to within one rupture length ($\leq 5$ km) -- significantly reducing the lateral uncertainty compared with relying on seismological data only. Combining Open Access-only seismological and geodetic data, we precisely constrain the source location, and conclude that this earthquake likely had a shallow source. We then discuss potential ways to continue the integration of geodetic data in the calibration of seismological earthquake location.



Geophysics and Seismology, Tectonics and Structure


Seismology, geodesy, Earthquakes, Seismicity


Published: 2022-01-14 12:45

Last Updated: 2022-01-14 20:45


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Additional Metadata

Conflict of interest statement:
The authors are aware of no conflicts of interest.

Data Availability (Reason not available):
All data used here is publicly available from the sources described in the manuscript

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