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Earthquake ground motion amplification for surface waves

Bowden, Daniel C. and Tsai, Victor C. (2017) Earthquake ground motion amplification for surface waves. Geophysical Research Letters, 44 (1). pp. 121-127. ISSN 0094-8276. doi:10.1002/2016GL071885.

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Surface waves from earthquakes are known to cause strong damage, especially for larger structures such as skyscrapers and bridges. However, common practice in characterizing seismic hazard at a specific site considers the effect of near-surface geology on only vertically propagating body waves. Here we show that surface waves have a unique and different frequency-dependent response to known geologic structure and that this amplification can be analytically calculated in a manner similar to current hazard practices. Applying this framework to amplification in the Los Angeles Basin, we find that peak ground accelerations for certain large regional earthquakes are underpredicted if surface waves are not properly accounted for and that the frequency of strongest ground motion amplification can be significantly different. Including surface-wave amplification in hazards calculations is therefore essential for accurate predictions of strong ground motion for future San Andreas Fault ruptures.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Bowden, Daniel C.0000-0003-3332-5146
Tsai, Victor C.0000-0003-1809-6672
Additional Information:© 2016 American Geophysical Union. Received 7 NOV 2016; Accepted 13 DEC 2016; Accepted article online 15 DEC 2016; Published online 5 JAN 2017. The velocity model used for Southern California is the SCEC CVM-S4.26, accessed from, on 25 February 2016, as part of the Unified Community Velocity Model package version 15.10.0. Seismograms are provided by the Caltech/USGS Southern California Seismic Network at Surface-wave eigenfunctions are generated through R. Herrmann's Computer Programs in Seismology (available at Vertical transfer functions were validated against C. Mueller's NRATTLE script, provided as part of the SMSIM package by D. Boore (available at The authors thank Jian Shi, Fan-Chi Lin, Rob Clayton, and Raul Castro for their helpful discussion. We also thank Francisco Sánchez-Sesma and one anonymous reviewer for their helpful feedback in preparation of the manuscript. This work was supported by EAR-1252191, EAR-1453263, and SCEC-15035.
Group:Seismological Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC)SCEC-15035
Subject Keywords:site amplification; site response; seismic hazards; surface waves
Issue or Number:1
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20170217-132237004
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Bowden, D. C., and V. C. Tsai (2017), Earthquake ground motion amplification for surface waves, Geophys. Res. Lett., 44, 121–127, doi:10.1002/2016GL071885
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:74405
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:24 Feb 2017 17:48
Last Modified:11 Nov 2021 05:27

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