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Investigation of Local Geology Effects on Strong Earthquake Ground Motions


Huang, Moh-jiann (1984) Investigation of Local Geology Effects on Strong Earthquake Ground Motions. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/pm3k-w086.


Accelerograms recorded at four stations in the Pasadena area during the 1971 San Fernando, the 1970 Lytle Creek, the 1968 Borrego Mountain and the 1952 Kern County earthquakes are analyzed to investigate local geology effects on strong earthquake ground motions. Spatial variations of the ground motions at two nearby stations are also investigated. It is found that the ground motions in this area caused by the local geology effects depend on the 3- dimensional configuration of the local geology and the direction of arriving seismic waves. Local geology effects are less evident on the leading portions of the accelerograms than the trailing portions, indicating the effects of local geology on surface wave propagations. Comparison of the Fourier amplitudes of the motions recorded at the same station during different earthquakes shows that there are no significant spectral peaks can be identified as site periods. Hence, it is not appropriate to characterize such local sites by a site period.

A two-dimensional model considering inclined propagating P and S waves in a horizontal-layered structure, which is more realistic and closer to the actual seismic environment within a local geology than the one-dimensional model of vertically propagating waves, is studied. The transfer functions between the free surface and the half-space outcrop for a single incident P, SV or SH wave from the half-space at an incident angle are defined and derived by a matrix method. Two numerical examples are given to demonstrate the effects of incident angle and material damping on the transfer function. It is found that the transfer function between the free surf ace motions and the bedrock outcrop motions to multiple incident waves having different amplitudes, angles and arrival times is quite different from that for a single incident wave. Completely satisfactory results cannot be expected when using the analytical model for evaluating the local geology effects on the motions during a nearby shallow-focus earthquake for which seismic waves emitted from different parts of the fault will approach the bedrock from different directions and at different angles.

The analytical model for assessing local geology effects is evaluated in the light of the data recorded at stations in the Pasadena area during the 1971 San Fernando earthquake. The observed site transfer functions between the alluvial and the rock sites are obtained and compared with the computed results from a two-dimensional model with 7-layers overlying a half-space. Values of model parameters are optimally adjusted to give a best least-squares fit between computed and observed amplitude ratios. It is concluded that the analytical model oversimplifies the local geological structure in the Pasadena area and the actual seismic environment in the area during the 1971 San Fernando earthquake.

It is concluded from these studies that the effects of the source mechanism and the seismic wave travel paths upon the site ground motion can be comparable to the effect of the local geology. The characteristics of the source mechanism, such as type of faulting, direction of fault-slip propagation, nature of stress drop across the fault surface, orientation of fault, depth beneath ground surface, etc., can appreciably influence the ground motion at the site. Also, the travel path can have a significant effect through influencing the types of waves that reach the site, and the directions of approach of the waves. The results of this study indicate that a better understanding of the spatial variation of ground motions, of the role played by different types of waves and their contributions to an accelerogram, and of the propagation directions of the waves is needed for assessing local geology effects on earthquake ground motions. A local array is desirable to provide data for giving a reasonably complete picture of the nature of ground motions in a local area.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Civil Engineering
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Civil Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Housner, George W.
Group:Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory
Thesis Committee:
  • Housner, George W. (chair)
  • Jennings, Paul C.
  • Scott, Ronald F.
  • Knowles, James K.
  • Knauss, Wolfgang Gustav
  • Kanamori, Hiroo
Defense Date:18 July 1983
Other Numbering System:
Other Numbering System NameOther Numbering System ID
EERL Report83-03
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:12122018-092221333
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ItemTechnical Report EERL 83-03 in CaltechAUTHORS
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:11308
Deposited On:12 Dec 2018 17:57
Last Modified:18 Aug 2021 00:21

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