A probabilistic estimate of maximum acceleration in rock in the contiguous United States

Open-File Report 76-416




This paper presents a probabilistic estimate of the maximum ground acceleration to be expected from earthquakes occurring in the contiguous United States. It is based primarily upon the historic seismic record which ranges from very incomplete before 1930 to moderately complete after 1960. Geologic data, primarily distribution of faults, have been employed only to a minor extent, because most such data have not been interpreted yet with earthquake hazard evaluation in mind.

The map provides a preliminary estimate of the relative hazard in various parts of the country. The report provides a method for evaluating the relative importance of the many parameters and assumptions in hazard analysis. The map and methods of evaluation described reflect the current state of understanding and are intended to be useful for engineering purposes in reducing the effects of earthquakes on buildings and other structures.

Studies are underway on improved methods for evaluating the relativ( earthquake hazard of different regions. Comments on this paper are invited to help guide future research and revisions of the accompanying map.

The earthquake hazard in the United States has been estimated in a variety of ways since the initial effort by Ulrich (see Roberts and Ulrich, 1950). In general, the earlier maps provided an estimate of the severity of ground shaking or damage but the frequency of occurrence of the shaking or damage was not given. Ulrich's map showed the distribution of expected damage in terms of no damage (zone 0), minor damage (zone 1), moderate damage (zone 2), and major damage (zone 3). The zones were not defined further and the frequency of occurrence of damage was not suggested. Richter (1959) and Algermissen (1969) estimated the ground motion in terms of maximum Modified Mercalli intensity. Richter used the terms "occasional" and "frequent" to characterize intensity IX shaking and Algermissen included recurrence curves for various parts of the country in the paper accompanying his map.

The first probabilistic hazard maps covering portions of the United States were by Milne and Davenport (1969a). Recently, Wiggins, Hirshberg and Bronowicki (1974) prepared a probabilistic map of maximum particle velocity and Modified Mercalli intensity for the entire United States. The maps are based on an analysis of the historical seismicity. In general, geological data were not incorporated into the development of the maps.

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A probabilistic estimate of maximum acceleration in rock in the contiguous United States
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey
Report: i, 45 p., 2 Figure: 27.32 x 17.47 and 27.18 x 17.25 inches
United States