2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 293-4
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


PRATT, Thomas1, HORTON Jr., J. Wright2, HOUGH, Susan3, MUNOZ, Jessica1, CHAPMAN, Martin C.4, OLGUN, C. Guney5 and BEALE, Jacob N.6, (1)U.S. Geological Survey, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, MS 905, Reston, VA 20192, (2)U.S. Geological Survey, 926A National Center, Reston, VA 20192, (3)U.S. Geological Survey, 525 S. Wilson Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91106, (4)Department of Geosciences, Virginia Tech, 4044 Derring Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061, (5)Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech, 111A Patton Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061, (6)Department of Geosciences, Virginia Tech, 4044 Derring Hall, Virignia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, tpratt@usgs.gov

During the 2011 Mw5.8 Mineral, VA earthquake, many buildings in Washington DC, including national landmarks like the Washington National Cathedral, the Smithsonian “Castle,” and the Washington Monument, sustained damage despite being 130 km from the epicenter. The surprisingly large amount of damage from weak bedrock ground motions raises questions of whether and how the local geologic materials beneath the city amplify ground motions. In particular, how much and at what frequencies do the southeast-thickening sedimentary strata of the Atlantic Coastal Plain (ACP) strata, sitting on crystalline bedrock, amplify and possibly trap energy? Between November 2014 and August 2015, we used 27 seismometers to measure ground motions across the city during teleseismic and regional earthquakes. Four sites on Piedmont crystalline rocks in NW Washington served as bedrock reference sites, and 23 sites were on ACP strata between 11 m and 200 m thick. Recordings of teleseisms and regional earthquakes provide data with sufficiently high signal-to-noise for computing spectral ratios of the horizontal ground shaking relative to the average of the 4 bedrock sites. Preliminary results are consistent with the primary influence on the amplitudes of ground motions coming from the ACP strata. At frequencies below 1 Hz most sites showed little difference in amplification relative to bedrock, suggesting that basement rocks beneath the ACP strata exert little influence on ground shaking. Strong spectral amplifications of a factor of 10 or greater at frequencies of 1 Hz and above are interpreted as being caused by the ACP strata, with the largest amplitudes at frequencies near the fundamental resonance frequency. A gradual decrease in amplification with higher frequencies above the fundamental peak is consistent with harmonics and resonances from within ACP strata. Results indicate significant amplification of ground motions in the DC area, the frequencies of which will be compared to the resonant frequencies of the damaged buildings.