Journal Article

3-D numerical simulations of earthquake ground motion in sedimentary basins: testing accuracy through stringent models

Emmanuel Chaljub, Emeline Maufroy, Peter Moczo, Jozef Kristek, Fabrice Hollender, Pierre-Yves Bard, Enrico Priolo, Peter Klin, Florent de Martin, Zhenguo Zhang, Wei Zhang and Xiaofei Chen

in Geophysical Journal International

Volume 201, issue 1, pages 90-111
ISSN: 0956-540X
Published online February 2015 | e-ISSN: 1365-246X | DOI:

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Differences between 3-D numerical predictions of earthquake ground motion in the Mygdonian basin near Thessaloniki, Greece, led us to define four canonical stringent models derived from the complex realistic 3-D model of the Mygdonian basin. Sediments atop an elastic bedrock are modelled in the 1D-sharp and 1D-smooth models using three homogeneous layers and smooth velocity distribution, respectively. The 2D-sharp and 2D-smooth models are extensions of the 1-D models to an asymmetric sedimentary valley. In all cases, 3-D wavefields include strongly dispersive surface waves in the sediments. We compared simulations by the Fourier pseudo-spectral method (FPSM), the Legendre spectral-element method (SEM) and two formulations of the finite-difference method (FDM-S and FDM-C) up to 4 Hz.

The accuracy of individual solutions and level of agreement between solutions vary with type of seismic waves and depend on the smoothness of the velocity model. The level of accuracy is high for the body waves in all solutions. However, it strongly depends on the discrete representation of the material interfaces (at which material parameters change discontinuously) for the surface waves in the sharp models.

An improper discrete representation of the interfaces can cause inaccurate numerical modelling of surface waves. For all the numerical methods considered, except SEM with mesh of elements following the interfaces, a proper implementation of interfaces requires definition of an effective medium consistent with the interface boundary conditions. An orthorhombic effective medium is shown to significantly improve accuracy and preserve the computational efficiency of modelling.

The conclusions drawn from the analysis of the results of the canonical cases greatly help to explain differences between numerical predictions of ground motion in realistic models of the Mygdonian basin.

We recommend that any numerical method and code that is intended for numerical prediction of earthquake ground motion should be verified through stringent models that would make it possible to test the most important aspects of accuracy.

Keywords: Numerical solutions; Numerical approximations and analysis; Earthquake ground motions; Site effects; Computational seismology; Wave propagation

Journal Article.  11698 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Volcanology and Seismology