Ground-motion records from aftershocks of the 1994 Northridge earthquake are used to estimate site response in the urban Los Angeles area. Over 1300 shear-wave records from 61 sources and 90 sites are used in a linear inversion for source and site-response spectra. The methodology makes no assumptions about the shape of the source spectrum. To obtain a stable unique inverse, a Q model and geometrical spreading factor are assumed. In addition, the site response at a hardrock site is constrained to be approximately 1.0 with a kappa of 0.02. The site-response spectra compare favorably with the results of previous and on-going investigations in Los Angeles. A couple of first-order effects are lower site response in the surrounding mountains, dominated by Mesozoic and Tertiary rocks, and higher values in the San Fernando and Los Angeles Basins, containing surficial Pleistocene and Holocene alluvial deposits. Results show good correlation of high site-response spectral values with localized areas of severe damage (Interstate 10 collapse, Sherman Oaks, Northridge, Interstate 5/14 collapse). However, widespread trends in site response across the sedimentary basins are not obvious. The data suggest that site responses are lower near the southern margin of the San Fernando Valley for sources to the north, due to north-dipping sedimentary structures. But the general pattern of site response is characterized by high variability on length scales less than a kilometer. Variations of a factor of 2 in site response are observed over the length scale of 200 m and for the same surficial geologic unit. For some of the alluvial basin sites, surface-wave generation is a significant contributor to elevated site response at lower frequencies, below 2 Hz. The total damage pattern for the Northridge earthquake is influenced by strong source directivity to the north and strong local site effects. The correlation of weak-motion site-response estimates with areas of significant damage demonstrates the value of these field measurements in future urban planning and in the reduction of seismic risk in urban areas.
Additional publication details
Site response for urban Los Angeles using aftershocks of the Northridge earthquake