We ran finite‐difference earthquake simulations for great subduction zone earthquakes in Cascadia to model the effects of source and path heterogeneity for the purpose of improving strong‐motion predictions. We developed a rupture model for large subduction zone earthquakes based on a k−2 slip spectrum and scale‐dependent rise times by representing the slip distribution as the sum of normal modes of a vibrating membrane.

Finite source and path effects were important in determining the distribution of strong motions through the locations of the hypocenter, subevents, and crustal structures like sedimentary basins. Some regions in Cascadia appear to be at greater risk than others during an event due to the geometry of the Cascadia fault zone relative to the coast and populated regions. The southern Oregon coast appears to have increased risk because it is closer to the locked zone of the Cascadia fault than other coastal areas and is also in the path of directivity amplification from any rupture propagating north to south in that part of the subduction zone, and the basins in the Puget Sound area are efficiently amplified by both north and south propagating ruptures off the coast of western Washington. We find that the median spectral accelerations at 5 s period from the simulations are similar to that of the Zhao et al. (2006) ground‐motion prediction equation, although our simulations predict higher amplitudes near the region of greatest slip and in the sedimentary basins, such as the Seattle basin.

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