Site- and ground motion dependent nonlinear effects in seismological model predictions
We investigate the empirical relationship between site response nonlinearity, soil properties, and ground motion characteristics, as a first step to enable efficient integration of nonlinear analyses in broadband ground motion simulations. For this purpose, we use 24 downhole array sites with detailed geotechnical information and subject the profiles to broadband ground motion synthetics. We quantify the extent of soil nonlinearity in site-specific response analyses by estimating the divergence between linear and nonlinear ground surface predictions. We show that the parameters controlling the nonlinear response are V_(S30) (weighted averaged shear wave velocity in the top 30 m of the soil profile), the site amplification at the fundamental frequency (Amp), the peak ground acceleration (PGA), and the frequency index (FI), a quantitative measure we define to characterize how well the incident motion can "see" the near-surface soil layers. Using the synthetic results, we quantitatively describe the error introduced in ground motion predictions when nonlinear effects are not accounted for, and show that the error is both site and ground motion dependent. Our study indicates that to characterize the susceptibility of a soil profile to nonlinear effects, V_(S30) should be complemented with measures of the soil–rock impedance contrast, as well as measures of the ground motion intensity and frequency content.