Abstract

In this study, we have evaluated the probabilistic and deterministic seismic hazard for the city of Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, which has a population of nearly two million people. Almaty is located in the Tien Shan belt, a low‐strain‐rate environment within the interior of the Eurasian plate that is characterized by large infrequent earthquakes. A robust assessment of seismic hazard for Almaty is challenging because current knowledge about the occurrence of large earthquakes is limited, due to the short duration of the earthquake catalog and only partial information about the geometry, rupture behavior, slip rate, and the maximum expected earthquake magnitude of the faults in the area. The impact that this incomplete knowledge has on assessing seismic hazard in this area can be overcome using both probabilistic and deterministic approaches and integrating the results.

First, we simulate ground‐shaking scenarios for three destructive historical earthquakes that occurred in the northern Tien Shan in 1887, 1889, and 1911, using ground‐motion prediction equations (GMPEs) and realistic fault‐rupture models based on recent geomorphological studies. We show that the large variability in the GMPEs results in large uncertainty in the ground‐motion simulations. Then, we estimate the seismic hazard probabilistically using a Monte Carlo‐based probabilistic seismic hazard analysis and the earthquake catalog compiled from the databases of the International Seismological Centre and the British Geological Survey. The results show that earthquakes of Mw 7.0–7.5 at Joyner–Boore distances of less than 10 km from the city pose a significant hazard to Almaty due to their proximity. These potential future earthquakes are similar to the 1887 Verny earthquake in terms of their magnitude and distance from Almaty. Unfortunately, this is the least well understood of the destructive historical earthquakes that have occurred in the northern Tien Shan.

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