Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Three-dimensional simulations of ground motions in the Seattle region for earthquakes in the Seattle fault zone

January 1, 2000

We used the 3D finite-difference method to model observed seismograms of two earthquakes (ML 4.9 and 3.5) in the Seattle region and to simulate ground motions for hypothetical M 6.5 and M 5.0 earthquakes on the Seattle fault, for periods greater than 2 sec. A 3D velocity model of the Seattle Basin was constructed from studies that analyzed seismic-reflection surveys, borehole logs, and gravity and aeromagnetic data. The observations and the simulations highlight the importance of the Seattle Basin on long-period ground motions. For earthquakes occurring just south of the basin, the edge of the basin and the variation of the thickness of the Quaternary deposits in the basin produce much larger surface waves than expected from flat-layered models. The data consist of seismograms recorded by instruments deployed in Seattle by the USGS and the University of Washington (UW). The 3D simulation reproduces the peak amplitude and duration of most of the seismograms of the June 1997 Bremerton event (ML 4.9) recorded in Seattle. We found the focal mechanism for this event that best fits the observed seismograms in Seattle by combining Green's functions determined from the 3D simulations for the six fundamental moment couples. The February 1997 event (ML 3.5) to the south of the Seattle Basin exhibits a large surface-wave arrival at UW whose amplitude is matched by the synthetics in our 3D velocity model, for a source depth of 9 km. The M 6.5 simulations incorporated a fractal slip distribution on the fault plane. These simulations produced the largest ground motions in an area that includes downtown Seattle. This is mainly caused by rupture directed up dip toward downtown, radiation pattern of the source, and the turning of S waves by the velocity gradient in the Seattle basin. Another area of high ground motion is located about 13 km north of the fault and is caused by an increase in the amplitude of higher-mode Rayleigh waves caused by the thinning of the Quaternary deposits.

Publication Year 2000
Title Three-dimensional simulations of ground motions in the Seattle region for earthquakes in the Seattle fault zone
DOI 10.1785/0119990159
Authors A. Frankel, W. Stephenson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America
Index ID 70022120
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse