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Published August 1, 2016 | Published
Journal Article Open

Downtown Los Angeles 52-Story High-Rise and Free-Field Response to an Oil Refinery Explosion


The ExxonMobil Corp. oil refinery in Torrance, California experienced an explosion on February 18, 2015 causing ground shaking equivalent to a magnitude 2.0 earthquake. The impulse response for the source was computed from Southern California Seismic Network data for a single force system with a value of 2×10^5 kN vertically downward. The refinery explosion produced an air pressure wave that was recorded 22.8 km away in a 52-story high-rise building in downtown Los Angeles by a dense accelerometer array that is a component of the Community Seismic Network. The array recorded anomalous waveforms on each floor displaying coherent arrivals that are consistent with the building's elastic response to a pressure wave caused by the refinery explosion. Using a finite-element model of the building, the force on the building on a floor-by-floor scale was found to range up to 1.42 kN, corresponding to a pressure perturbation of 7.7 Pa.

Copyright and License

© 2016 Earthquake Engineering Research Institute. 


We appreciate discussions with Caltech Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering Joseph Shepherd, and Caltech Professor of Planetary Science Andrew Ingersol who provided useful feedback on this study. We thank three anonymous reviewers whose comments improved this paper. We also thank the Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation, the Terrestrial Hazard Observation and Reporting Center at Caltech, and the Divisions of Geological and Planetary Science, and Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech for funding the development of the Community Seismic Network. The USGS Advanced National Seismic System and California Office of Emergency Services provided funding for SCSN operations. The Los Angeles/Long Beach Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) funded a recent upgrade of the SCSN.

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August 20, 2023
March 6, 2024