The study models the response of near-surface materials in Charleston, South Carolina, and the adjacent area. Geotechnical investigations at 281 locations were made available by local engineering firms. The data used for dynamic site- response analysis were derived from shear-wave velocity measurements at 52 locations. Site response was quantified as the ratio of surface motion to hypothetical hard-rock basement outcrop motion. Scenario earthquake motions were developed with the stochastic model. Acceleration response ratios for 5% critical oscillator damping were computed for 12 frequencies ranging from 0.1 to 30 Hz and for peak ground acceleration.
Two features determine the general nature of site response in the study area: the impedance contrast between Mesozoic basement and Cretaceous sediments, and the shallow impedance contrast between Quaternary and Tertiary sediments. Average S- wave velocities in the Quaternary are relatively uniform and range from 150 to 250 m/sec. They are not strongly correlated with surface geology. The velocities of the immediately underlying Tertiary sediments range from 300 to 500 m/sec. Because of the uniformity of velocity in the Quaternary, depth to the Quaternary-Tertiary contact appears to be the most important variable leading to differences in calculated site response. This surface is irregular, and varies in depth from near surface at inland sites to approximately 30 m at sites near the coast. As a consequence, estimated site response in the frequency band 1–10 Hz varies by as much as a factor of 3. Site response at frequencies less than 1 Hz is dominated by the first few resonant harmonics of the entire sedimentary section, with fundamental frequency near 0.2 Hz.