Open-File Report 2014–1232
The geotechnical properties of the soils in and around Boston, Massachusetts, have been extensively studied. This is partly due to the importance of the Boston Blue Clay and the extent of landfill in the Boston area. Although New England is not a region that is typically associated with seismic hazards, there have been several historical earthquakes that have caused significant ground shaking (for example, see Street and Lacroix, 1979; Ebel, 1996; Ebel, 2006). The possibility of strong ground shaking, along with heightened vulnerability from unreinforced masonry buildings, motivates further investigation of seismic hazards throughout New England. Important studies that are pertinent to seismic hazards in New England include source-parameter studies (Somerville and others, 1987; Boore and others, 2010), wave-propagation studies (Frankel, 1991; Viegas and others, 2010), empirical ground-motion prediction equations (GMPE) for computing ground-motion intensity (Tavakoli and Pezeshk, 2005; Atkinson and Boore, 2006), site-response studies (Hayles and others, 2001; Ebel and Kim, 2006), and liquefaction studies (Brankman and Baise, 2008). The shear-wave velocity (VS) profiles collected for this report are pertinent to the GMPE, site response, and liquefaction aspects of seismic hazards in the greater Boston area. Besides the application of these data for the Boston region, the data may be applicable throughout New England, through correlations with geologic units (similar to Ebel and Kim, 2006) or correlations with topographic slope (Wald and Allen, 2007), because few VS measurements are available in stable tectonic regions.
Ebel and Hart (2001) used felt earthquake reports to infer amplification patterns throughout the greater Boston region and noted spatial correspondence with the dominant period and amplification factors obtained from ambient noise (horizontal-to-vertical ratios) by Kummer (1998). Britton (2003) compiled geotechnical borings in the area and produced a microzonation map based on generalized velocity profiles, where the amplifications were computed using Shake (Schnable and others, 1972), along with an assumed input ground motion. The velocities were constrained by only a few local measurements associated with the Central Artery/Tunnel project. The additional VS measurements presented in this report provide a number of benefits. First, these measurements provide improved spatial coverage. Second, the larger sample size provides better constraints on the mean and variance of the VS distribution for each layer, which may be paired with a three-dimensional (3D) model of the stratigraphy to generate one-dimensional (1D) profiles for use in a standard site-response analysis (for example, Britton, 2003). Third, the velocity profiles may also be used, along with a 3D model of the stratigraphy, as input into a 3D simulation of the ground motion to investigate the effects of basin-generated surface waves and the potential focusing of seismic waves.
This report begins with a short review of the geology of the study area and the field methods that we used to estimate the velocity profiles. The raw data, processed data, and the interpreted VS profiles are given in appendix 1. Photographs and descriptions of the sites are provided in appendix 2.
First posted November 6, 2014
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Thompson, E.M., Carkin, B., Baise, L.G., and Kayen, R.E., 2014, Surface wave site characterization at 27 locations near Boston, Massachusetts, including 2 strong-motion stations: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2014–1232, 27 p., https://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20141232.
ISSN 2331-1258 (online)
Study Area and Geology