The Los Angeles basin is characterized by deep structural complexity and is the site of numerous earthquakes. We analyze the amplitude and waveform data of earthquakes recorded in the Los Angeles basin in order to identify the structurally controlled path effects. This has been done in order to determine which features of the structure affect the observations and to generate improved models in different parts of the basin increasing our capabilities of predicting seismic hazard. Several structural models of the L.A. basin that are based on regional subsurface studies, exposed sections, scattered oil wells, and other limited geophysical data have recently become available. In this study, we have used seismic modeling techniques together with geologic models to attempt to explain site variations in some important data bases. We have modeled waveforms of (1) the 19 January 1989 Malibu earthquake data recorded in Pasadena, (2) an M = 2.8 earthquake recorded by the USC downhole array in the Baldwin Hills, southern California, and (3) two aftershocks of the Whittier Narrows earthquake recorded at five stations along a profile.

The modeling of the Malibu earthquake results in a layered one-dimensional model representing 6.5 km of layered sediment underlain by a high-velocity basement. Direct arrivals, basin reflected phases, and multiple reverberations are modeled fairly well by this one-dimensional model. The downhole array data in the Baldwin Hills show a significant near-surface amplification that can be modeled by very low-velocity near-surface materials. A series of aftershocks of the Whittier Narrows earthquake recorded at close distances at temporary recording sites shows a wide variation in peak accelerations due both to radiation pattern and propagation effects. The effect of lateral heterogeneity is evident in the travel time, where stations within the basin show later arrival times than those away from the basin for the same epicentral distance. Seismograms recorded at different sites show variation in waveforms due to multi-pathing of rays. We use such triplicated arrivals to constrain the structure of different interfaces. Using these criteria and the synthetic seismograms calculated by ray theory and finite difference methods, we have been able to model the tangential seismograms due to two of these events recorded at five stations along a two-dimensional profile.

All three modeling exercises helped us understand wave propagation in the basin environment. A basin-reflected phase was identified in the seismogram from the Malibu earthquake, which was used to derive an effective depth of the basement. Near-surface amplification of the waves observed in the downhole data could be explained by constructive interference of the multiply reflected waves through the thin near-surface low-velocity layer. Similarly, site-dependent variation of waveform and travel time shown by the seismograms from the aftershocks of the Whittier Narrows, California, earthquake could be accounted for when a laterally varying structure was used.

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