Two hundred and thirty-four components of ground displacement are the basis of an investigation of long-period strong ground motion in southern California arising from the San Fernando, California, earthquake. The displacement data are obtained from the double integration of strong-motion accelerograms via the base-line adjustment and filtering operations routinely performed in the series “Strong Motion Earthquake Accelerograms”. These procedures can recover long-period data from strong-motion accelerograms with considerable accuracy. Many-station comparisons of displacement data for which the station spacing is small compared to the wavelengths of interest reveal that uncertainties in displacement are less than 1 cm in the period range 5 to 8 sec, 1 to 2 cm at periods near 10 sec, and 2 to 4 cm in the period range 10 to 15 sec, for a data sensitivity of approximately 7.6 cm/g. For limited variations in epicentral distance (R) and source-station azimuth (ϕ), ground displacements show a strong coherence; for wider variations in R and ϕ, many of the observed variations in the displacement wave forms are easily attributable to well-understood seismological phenomena. Seismic moment, source dimension, radiation pattern, rupture propagation, the development of surface waves and their subsequent dispersion, and azimuthal variations in the gross geological structure all appear to have first-order significance in fashioning the gross amplitude and frequency content of the displacement wave forms and in explaining observed variations with R and ϕ. The essential simplicity of these displacement wave forms offers considerable optimism that long-period strong ground motion can be realistically synthesized with advance knowledge of the earthquake source parameters and gross geological structure.

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