Abstract

Current techniques of estimating shallow shear velocities for assessment of earthquake site response are too costly for use at most construction sites. They require large sources to be effective in noisy urban settings or specialized independent recorders laid out in an extensive array. This work shows that microtremor noise recordings made on 200-m-long lines of seismic refraction equipment can estimate shear velocity with 20% accuracy, often to 100-m depths. The combination of commonly available equipment, simple recording with no source, a wavefield transformation data processing technique, and an interactive Rayleigh-wave dispersion modeling tool exploits the most effective aspects of the microtremor, spectral analysis of surface wave (SASW) and multichannel analysis of surface wave (MASW) techniques. The slowness-frequency wavefield transformation is particularly effective in allowing accurate picking of Rayleigh-wave phase-velocity dispersion curves despite the presence of waves propagating across the linear array at high apparent velocities, higher-mode Rayleigh waves, body waves, air waves, and incoherent noise. Two locations illustrate the application of this technique in detail: coincident with a large accelerometer microtremor array in Reno, Nevada; and atop a borehole logged for shear velocity in Newhall, California. Refraction equipment could duplicate microtremor results above 3 Hz but could not estimate velocities deeper than 100 m. Refraction microtremor cannot duplicate the detail in the velocity profile yielded by a suspension logger but can match the average velocity of 10- to 20-m depth intervals and suggest structure below the 100-m logged depth of the hole. Eight additional examples from southern California and New Zealand demonstrate that the refraction microtremor technique quickly produces good results from a wide range of hard and soft sites.

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