Characterizing ground motion amplification by extensive flat sediments: The seismic response of the eastern U.S. Atlantic Coastal Plain strata

Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America
By:  and 



We examine the effects that Atlantic Coastal Plain (ACP) strata have on ground motions in the eastern and southeastern United States. The ACP strata consist of widespread, nearly flat‐lying sediments, the upper portions of which are unconsolidated or semiconsolidated. The ACP sediments are deposited primarily on crystalline basement rocks, creating large velocity and density contrasts with the underlying rocks. At 211 sites on ACP strata to thicknesses of 4000 m, we compute spectral ratios relative to the average of four bedrock sites west or northwest of the strata. Sites consist of stations of Earthscope’s USArray Transportable Array (TA), and temporary deployments in the Southeast Suture of the Atlantic Margin Experiment (SESAME), Eastern North American Margin (ENAM) experiment, and the DCShake deployment in Washington, D.C. For the TA and SESAME stations, we use signals from 13 teleseisms and three regional earthquakes as input, combining the north and east components of motion after taking the Fourier transforms. We also include similarly processed site responses from the ENAM and DCShake arrays that were computed in earlier studies. Results show prominent, fundamental resonance peaks at frequencies determined by reverberations in the entire sediment column, and that often define the largest amplifications for each frequency. As frequencies increase, these resonance peaks migrate to thinner ACP strata and increase in amplitude. The peaks are well defined at frequencies below about 1 Hz, but become narrower and less defined regionally at higher frequencies. We develop simple equations to characterize amplification versus ACP thickness, which we approximate by cosine and Gaussian curves with amplifications of 1 on bedrock and rising to the resonance peak, and then decreasing to an average amplification at thicknesses greater than twice the resonance peak. Comparisons with other site corrections for the central and eastern United States based on sediment thickness show similarities on thin ACP strata but divergence on thicker sediments. The results also demonstrate the effectiveness of using teleseismic arrivals to characterize the site responses of sedimentary sequences.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Characterizing ground motion amplification by extensive flat sediments: The seismic response of the eastern U.S. Atlantic Coastal Plain strata
Series title Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America
DOI 10.1785/0120200328
Volume 111
Issue 4
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher Seismological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Geologic Hazards Science Center
Description 29 p.
First page 1795
Last page 1823
Country United States
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