This study investigates the relationship between earthquake magnitude and the size of damage areas in the eastern and western United States. To quantify damage area as a function of moment magnitude (M), 149 MMI VI and VII areas for 109 earthquakes (88 in the western United States, 21 in the eastern United States and Canada) were measured. Regression of isoseismal areas versus M indicated that areas in the East were larger than those in the West, at both intensity levels, by an average 5 × in the M 4.5 to 7.5 range. In terms of radii for circles of equivalent area, these results indicate that damaging ground motion from shocks of the same magnitude extend 2 × the epicentral distance in eastern North America compared to the West.

To determine source and site parameters consistent with the above results, response spectral levels for eastern North America were stochastically simulated and compared with response spectral ordinates derived from recorded strong ground motion data in the western United States. Stress-drop values of 200 bars, combined with a surficial 2-km-thick low velocity “sedimentary” layer over rock basement, produced results that are compatible with the intensity observations, i.e., similar response spectral levels in the east at approximately twice their epicentral distance in the western U.S. distance.

These results suggest that ground motion modeling in eastern North America may need to incorporate source and site parameters different from those presently in general use. The results are also of importance to eastern U.S. hazard assessments as they require allowance for the larger damage areas in preparedness and mitigation programs.

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