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Published October 2013 | Published
Journal Article Open

Ground-Motion Observations at Hotel Montana during the M 7.0 2010 Haiti Earthquake: Topography or Soil Amplification?


Unusually severe structural damage was reported during the 2010 M 7.0 Haiti earthquake in the vicinity of Hotel Montana, located on top of a ridge in the district of Pétionville. Prompted by the observations, U.S. Geological Survey seismic stations were deployed, and aftershock recordings indicated ground‐motion amplification on the top of the hill compared to adjacent stations on reference site conditions. The presence of topographic relief has been shown to significantly aggravate the consequences of strong ground motion during past events, and topographic effects were brought forward to explain the observations. In this paper, we test the hypothesis of topographic amplification as the dominant factor that contributed to the damage concentration in the vicinity of Hotel Montana. We initially conduct numerical simulations of the ridge seismic response assuming elastic homogeneous site conditions, and show that numerical predictions of topographic amplification disagree with the field data both in amplitude and in frequency. Conversely, while 1D ground‐response analyses for the site conditions at the hilltop predict amplification in the same frequency range as the field data, they significantly underestimate the recorded amplitude. We then conduct numerical simulations of the foothill ridge response to seismic motion while accounting for soil layering, and qualitatively demonstrate that the recorded amplification is most likely attributed to coupled site–topographic amplification effects, namely to seismic waves trapped in the soft soil layers of the near surface, amplified as a consequence of reverberations, and further modified due to diffraction and scattering upon incidence on the irregular ground surface. Parametric investigations of the topography–soil amplification coupling effects are then conducted, and our results show that when accounting for a hypothetical soil–bedrock interface at 100 m depth, predictions are in excellent agreement with the observed motion.

Additional Information

Copyright © 2013 by the Seismological Society of America. Manuscript received 26 July 2012. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number CMMI‐0936543 with title "NEESR‐CR: Topographic Effects in Strong Ground Motion: From Physical and Numerical Modeling to Design" and Grant Number CMMI‐1030728 with title "Topographic Amplification of Seismic Motion: Observations and Simulations in 3D". Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The authors would also like to thank Susan Hough and Alan Yong from the U. S. Geological Survey Pasadena Office, Brady Cox from the University of Arkansas, and Jamison H. Steidl from the Institute of Crustal Studies at the University of California ‐ Santa Barbara for their help in providing the digital elevation, strong‐motion aftershock recordings, SASW soil profile data, and their insightful comments on our research findings presented here. The constructive reviews by F. Sanchez‐Sesma, M. Chapman, and an anonymous reviewer are hereby also acknowledged.

Attached Files

Published - Assimaki,_Jeong_-_2013_-_Ground-Motion_Observations_at_Hotel_Montana_during_the_M_7.0_2010_Haiti_Earthquake_Topography_or_Soil_Amplifica.pdf



Additional details

August 19, 2023
October 17, 2023