Field investigation of topographic effects using mine seismicity
Wood, Clinton Miller
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This dissertation details work aimed at better understanding topographic effects in earthquake ground motions. The experiment, conducted in Central-Eastern Utah, used frequent and predictable seismicity produced by underground longwall coal mining as a source of low-intensity ground motions. Locally-dense arrays of seismometers deployed over various topographic features were used to passively monitor seismic energy produced by mining-induced implosions and/or stress redistribution in the subsurface. The research consisted of two separate studies: an initial feasibility experiment (Phase I) followed by a larger-scale main study (Phase II). Over 50 distinct, small-magnitude (M[subscript 'L'] < 1.6) seismic events were identified in each phase. These events were analyzed for topographic effects in the time domain using the Peak Ground Velocity (PGV), and in the frequency domain using the Standard Spectral Ratio (SSR) method, the Median Reference Method (MRM), and the Horizontal-to-Vertical Spectral Ratio (HVSR) method. The polarities of the horizontal ground motions were also visualized using directional analyses. The various analysis methods were compared to assess their ability to estimate amplification factors and determine the topographic frequencies of interest for each feature instrumented. The MRM was found to provide the most consistent, and presumably accurate, estimates of the amplification factor and frequency range for topographic effects. Results from this study clearly indicated that topographic amplification of ground motions does in fact occur. These amplifications were very frequency dependent, and the frequency range was correctly estimated in many, but not all, cases using simplified, analytical methods based on the geotechnical and geometrical properties of the topography. Amplifications in this study were found to generally range from 2 to 3 times a reference/baseline site condition, with some complex 3D features experiencing amplifications as high as 10. Maximum amplifications occurred near the crest of topographic features with slope angles greater than approximately 15 degrees, and the amplifications were generally oriented in the direction of steepest topographic relief, with some dependency on wave propagation direction.