This paper examines the rationale of a method of nonstationary data processing and analysis, referred to as the Hilbert-Huang transform (HHT), for its application to a recording-based approach in quantifying influences of soil nonlinearity in site response. In particular, this paper first summarizes symptoms of soil nonlinearity shown in earthquake recordings, reviews the Fourier-based approach to characterizing nonlinearity, and offers justifications for the HHT in addressing nonlinearity issues. This study then uses the HHT method to analyze synthetic data and recordings from the 1964 Niigata and 2001 Nisqually earthquakes. In doing so, the HHT-based site response is defined as the ratio of marginal Hilbert amplitude spectra, alternative to the Fourier-based response that is the ratio of Fourier amplitude spectra. With the Fourier-based approach in studies of site response as a reference, this study shows that the alternative HHT-based approach is effective in characterizing soil nonlinearity and nonlinear site response.

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