Topographic Influence on Near-Surface Seismic Velocity in southern California

Jessica C. Lin, Seulgi Moon, Lingsen Meng, & Paul M. Davis

Published August 2, 2016, SCEC Contribution #6467, 2016 SCEC Annual Meeting Poster #177

Near-surface seismic velocity is commonly used to determine subsurface rock structure, properties, and ground-motion amplification. The spatial distribution of Vs30 (shear-wave seismic velocity in the top 30 m of Earth’s crust) has been inferred based on the correlations of measured Vs30 with rock types and topographic slopes. Inference of Vs30 based on topographic slopes relies on the assumption that mechanically strong rocks tend to have steep slopes. The topographic slopes can thus be used to infer bedrock strength and seismic velocity. However, due to limited accessibility and logistical difficulties, there are few Vs30 measurements in sites of crystalline rocks that have measurable topographic variations. Thus, the variability of Vs30 with topographic slope for crystalline rocks has not been addressed systematically. In order to examine the local variabilities in near-surface seismic velocity in southern California, we measured the spatial distributions of near-surface seismic velocity at two sites: one in the San Gabriel Mountains (SGM) and one in the San Bernardino Mountains (SBM). Both sites are composed of predominantly crystalline rocks with topographic slopes that range from 0.2 to 0.5. We conducted seismic refraction surveys using sledgehammer-induced impacts on a steel plate along seismic lines that were oriented roughly N-S, 240 m in length with a spacing of 5 m, and with topographic variation including both a local hilltop and valley. Using first P-wave arrivals, we constructed a P-wave seismic tomography down to 50 m. Our results show that P-wave seismic velocity in the SGM site varies significantly within hillslopes and does not linearly correlate with slope, while P-wave seismic velocity in the SBM site shows little variation in the hillslope. In the SGM site, the Vs30 beneath the valley is 25% faster than the Vs30 beneath the hillslope. These results suggest that the local variability of seismic velocity depends on differences in sediment thickness, bedrock fractures, and weathering patterns.

Lin, J. C., Moon, S., Meng, L., & Davis, P. M. (2016, 08). Topographic Influence on Near-Surface Seismic Velocity in southern California. Poster Presentation at 2016 SCEC Annual Meeting.

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