Improvements to the Assessment of Site-Specific Seismic Hazards

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Virginia Tech


The understanding of the impact of site effects on ground motions is crucial for improving the assessment of seismic hazards. Site response analyses (SRA) can numerically accommodate the mechanics behind the wave propagation phenomena near the surface as well as the variability associated with the input motion and soil properties. As a result, SRA constitute a key component of the assessment of site-specific seismic hazards within the probabilistic seismic hazard analysis framework. This work focuses on limitations in SRA, namely, the definition of the elastic half-space (EHS) boundary condition, the selection of input ground motions so that they are compatible with the assumed EHS properties, and the proper consideration of near-surface attenuation effects. Input motions are commonly selected based on similarities between the shear wave velocity (Vs) at the recording station and the materials below the reference depth at the study site (among other aspects such as the intensity of the expected ground motion, distance to rupture, type of source, etc.). This traditional approach disregards the influence of the attenuation in the shallow crust and the degree to which it can alter the estimates of site response. A Vs-κ correction framework for input motions is proposed to render them compatible with the properties of the assumed EHS at the site. An ideal EHS must satisfy the conditions of linearity and homogeneity. It is usually defined at a horizon where no strong impedance contrast will be found below that depth (typically the top of bedrock). However, engineers face challenges when dealing with sites where this strong impedance contrast takes place far beyond the depth of typical Vs measurements. Case studies are presented to illustrate potential issues associated with the selection of the EHS boundary in SRA. Additionally, the relationship between damping values as considered in geotechnical laboratory-based models, and as implied by seismological attenuation parameters measured using ground motions recorded in the field is investigated to propose alternative damping models that can match more closely the attenuation of seismic waves in the field.



site response analysis, amplification function, seismic hazard, attenuation of seismic waves, damping ratio