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On the development of strong-motion instrument networks in the United States

January 1, 1978

This report outlines a plan for the distribution of strong-motion instrumentation throughout the United States. The present "national" network of strong-motion instrumentation has evolved through the merger of several programs initiated by different agencies and organizations with objectives ranging from research to regulation. It is the result of the coordination of instrument maintenance and record archival currently provided by the Seismic Engineering Branch of the U.S. Geological Survey (formerly the Seismological Field Survey of the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey, or the National Ocean Survey, or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). The USGS operates the program under funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with other federal, state, and local agencies.

NSF supports a data management function and the operation of a network of about 200 accelerographs and 300 seismoscopes utilized for studies of ground motion and building response. The State of California is developing its own strong-motion instrumentation program (CSMIP), which includes measurements of ground motion as well as the response of representative types of structures. The CSMIP network is the largest network operated by a single agency anywhere in the world. Eventually it will contain a total of about 1000 accelerographs. The Army Corps of Engineers (COE) is developing a program for monitoring the response of earth dams, which eventually will include as many as 400 instruments on over 100 dams. Other agencies and organizations are developing networks appropriate to their missions or objectives. At present the number of instruments owned by these other agencies is less than 100 in each case, although several agencies are still expanding their networks. The present distribution of accelerographs in the United States is indicated in Figure 1 (see: USGS, 1977, also).

In 1964 the cities of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, California passed ordinances which required 3 accelerographs to be installed in all high-rise buildings. Initially, these instruments were installed and maintained as a part of the strong-motion program of the Seismological Field Survey (SFS). As the number of installations required by such codes increased, it became apparent that the maintenance of these instruments placed an inordinate burden on and created an imbalance in the SFS operated program (in 1972, 50 percent of the "national" program was concentrated in Los Angeles). With the transfer of the SFS program responsibility to the NSF and with the development of the CSMIP, the responsibility for maintenance of code required instruments has reverted to the city building officials and the building owners.

As the coordinated network of strong-motion instruments has grown, the maintenance of the instruments has required a larger staff than the USGS could provide under existing personnel ceilings. This situation has been resolved by the agencies with the larger networks performing their own installation and maintenance. The USGS maintains an archive of first class copies of all records, whereas other agencies maintain archives of their own records, only. In addition, the USGS coordinates the routine processing of all of the significant records, although other agencies will process their own data if they consider it to have a higher priority than does the USGS. In response to a recent change in their legislated charter, the CSMIP is beginning to develop a capability to process the data collected under that program.

Publication Year 1978
Title On the development of strong-motion instrument networks in the United States
DOI 10.3133/ofr781024
Authors R.B. Matthiesen
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 78-1024
Index ID ofr781024
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse