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Evaluating spectral ratio methods for characterizing fundamental resonance peaks on flat sediments: An example from the Atlantic Coastal Plain, Eastern United States

July 6, 2021

Damaging ground motions from the 2011 Mw">Mw 5.8 Virginia earthquake were likely increased due to site amplification from the unconsolidated sediments of the Atlantic Coastal Plain (ACP), highlighting the need to understand site response on these widespread strata along the coastal regions of the eastern United States. The horizontal‐to‐vertical spectral ratio (HVSR) method, using either earthquake signals or ambient noise as input, offers an appealing method for measuring site response on laterally extensive sediments, because it requires a single seismometer rather than requiring a nearby bedrock site to compute a horizontal sediment‐to‐bedrock spectral ratio (SBSR). Although previous studies show mixed results when comparing the two methods, the majority of these studies investigated site responses in confined sedimentary basins that can generate substantial 3D effects or have relatively small reflection coefficients at their base. In contrast, the flat‐lying ACP strata and the underlying bedrock reflector should cause 1D resonance effects to dominate site response, with amplification of the fundamental resonance peaks controlled by the strong impedance contrast between the base of the sediments and the underlying bedrock. We compare site‐response estimates on the ACP strata derived using the HVSR and SBSR methods from teleseismic signals recorded by regional arrays and observe a close match in the frequencies of the fundamental resonance peak (⁠f0">f0⁠) determined by both methods. We find that correcting the HVSR amplitude using source term information from a bedrock site and multiplying the peak by a factor of 1.2 results in amplitude peaks that, on average, match SBSR results within a factor of 2. We therefore conclude that the HVSR method may successfully estimate regional linear weak‐motion site‐response amplifications from the ACP, or similar geologic environments, when appropriate region‐specific corrections to the amplitude ratios are used.

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