ABSTRACT

Soil nonlinear behavior is often triggered in soft sedimentary deposits subjected to strong ground shaking and has led to catastrophic damage to civil infrastructure in many past earthquakes. Nonlinear behavior in soils is associated with large shear strains, increased material damping ratio, and reduced stiffness. However, most investigations of the high‐frequency spectral decay parameter κ, which captures attenuation, have focused on low‐intensity ground motions inducing only small shear strains. Because studies of the applicability of the κ model when larger deformations are induced are limited, this article investigates the behavior of κ (both κr per record and site‐specific κ0 estimates) beyond the linear‐elastic regime. About 20 stations from the Kiban–Kyoshin network database, with time‐average shear‐wave velocities in the upper 30 m between 213 and 626  m/s, are used in this study. We find that the classification scheme used to identify ground motions that trigger soil nonlinear behavior biases estimates of κ0 in the linear and nonlinear regimes. A hybrid method to overcome such bias is proposed considering proxies for in situ deformation (via the shear‐strain index) and ground shaking intensity (via peak ground acceleration). Our findings show that soil nonlinearity affects κr and κ0 estimates, but this influence is station dependent. Most κ0 at our sites had a 5%–20% increase at the onset of soil nonlinear behavior. Velocity gradients and impedance contrasts influence the degree of soil nonlinearity and its effects on κr and κ0. Moreover, we observe that other complexities in the wave propagation phenomenon (e.g., scattering and amplifications in the high‐frequency range) impose challenges to the application of the κ0 model, including the estimation of negative values of κr.

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