Abstract

The erroneous flipping of polarity in seismic records of ocean‐bottom seismometers (OBSs) could go unnoticed and undiagnosed because it is coupled with unknown horizontal orientation of OBS instruments on the seafloor. In this study, we present detailed approaches to first identify potential errors in the flipping polarity of individual OBS instruments, and then determine the correct orientation of OBS instruments on the seafloor. We first conduct a series of tests by artificially flipping the polarity of seismic records of the Global Seismographic Network stations to determine the effects on orientation estimates, utilizing polarization characteristics of teleseismic P and Rayleigh waves, respectively. The tests demonstrate that erroneous polarity reversal in seismic recording could cause false estimates and reverse radial (R) and tangential (T) components. We determine the sensor orientations through comparing the observed waveforms to the synthetic waveforms, which could solve the ambiguity of R and T directions caused by potential erroneous polarity reversal of OBS data. We then apply the approaches to an OBS data set collected in the southern Mariana subduction zone to obtain the correct orientation for 9 out of 12 OBS instruments.

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