Sediment thickness map of United States Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain Strata, and their influence on earthquake ground motions

Boyd O. S., Churchwell D., Moschetti M. P., Thompson E. M., Chapman M. C., İLHAN O., ...More

Earthquake Spectra, vol.40, no.1, pp.89-112, 2024 (SCI-Expanded) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 40 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2024
  • Doi Number: 10.1177/87552930231204880
  • Journal Name: Earthquake Spectra
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, PASCAL, Aerospace Database, Communication Abstracts, Compendex, Geobase, Metadex, Civil Engineering Abstracts
  • Page Numbers: pp.89-112
  • Keywords: Atlantic Coastal Plain, earthquake hazard, ground motion amplification, ground motion deamplification, Gulf Coastal Plain
  • Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University Affiliated: Yes


With the recent successful accounting of basin depth ground-motion adjustments in seismic hazard analyses for select areas of the western United States, we move toward implementing similar adjustments in the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains by constructing a sediment thickness model and evaluating multiple relevant site amplification models for central and eastern United States seismic hazard analyses. We digitize and combine existing sediment thickness data sets into a composite surface that delineates the base of Cretaceous sediments under the Atlantic Coastal Plain and the base of Mesozoic sediments under the Gulf Coastal Plain. Amplification models dependent on sediment thickness, site natural period, and source-to-site path length are compared with data sets of observed ground motions to evaluate the ability of the new models to improve ground motion estimates. We find that the amplification models can account for observed trends in sediment-thickness and period-dependent residuals, but some tuning is required. For example, the model of Chapman and Guo requires a reference VS30, the time-averaged shear-wave velocity within 30 m of the Earth’s surface, for non-Coastal Plain sites, which we estimate to be between about 1 and 2 km/s. Along with our sediment thickness model, we estimate a velocity profile for application to the Harmon et al. site-natural-period-based model in order to best match the Chapman and Guo period dependence for a broad range of sediment thicknesses. The Next Generation of Attenuation models for the eastern United States Gulf Coast path-based adjustment models can also account for seismic attenuation in the Coastal Plain sediments and reduce the standard deviation of total residuals. If enacted in the U.S. Geological Survey National Seismic Hazard Model, these amplification models will reduce predicted short-period (<1 s) and increase predicted long-period (>1 s) ground motions in the Coastal Plains appreciably.