Estimating Ground Motion Intensities Using Simulation-Based Estimates of Local Crustal Seismic Response

Himanshu Agrawal and John McCloskey
Submitted to: Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Academic publication
March 2024


It is estimated that 2 billion people will move to cities in the next 30 years, many of which possess high seismic risk, underscoring the importance of reliable hazard assessments. Current ground motion models for these assessments typically rely on an extensive catalogue of events to derive empirical Ground Motion Prediction Equations (GMPEs), which are often unavailable in developing countries. Considering the challenge, we choose an alternative method utilizing physics-based (PB) ground motion simulations and develop a simplified decomposition of ground motion estimation by considering regional attenuation (Δ) and local site amplification (𝐴), thereby exploring how much of the observed variability can be explained solely by wave propagation effects. We deterministically evaluate these parameters in a virtual city named Tomorrowville, located in a 3D layered crustal velocity model containing sedimentary basins, using randomly oriented extended sources. Using these physics-based empirical parameters (Δ and 𝐴), we evaluate the intensities, particularly Peak Ground Accelerations (PGA), of hypothetical future earthquakes. The results suggest that the estimation of PGA using the deterministic Δ − 𝐴 decomposition exhibits a robust spatial correlation with the PGA obtained from simulations within Tomorrowville. This method exposes an order of magnitude spatial variability in PGA within Tomorrowville, primarily associated with the near-surface geology and largely independent of the seismic source. In conclusion, advances in PB simulations and improved crustal structure determination offer the potential to overcome the limitations of earthquake data availability to some extent, enabling prompt evaluation of ground motion intensities.