Rotational seismology is an emerging field for studying all aspects of rotational ground motions induced by earthquakes, explosions, and ambient vibrations. It is of interest to a wide range of geophysical disciplines, including strong-motion seismology, broadband seismology, earthquake engineering, earthquake physics, seismic instrumentation, seismic hazards, seismotectonics, and geodesy, as well as to physicists using Earth-based observatories for detecting gravitational waves generated by astronomical sources (predicted by Einstein in 1916). In this introduction to the BSSA special issue on rotational seismology and engineering applications, we will include (1) some background information, (2) a summary of the recent events that led to this special issue, and (3) an overview of its 51 papers—27 articles, 11 short notes, 4 reviews, 6 tutorials, and 3 supplementary articles. Our comments on these 51 papers are very brief and give just a hint of what the papers are about.
Papers in this special issue demonstrate that earthquake monitoring cannot be limited to measuring only the three components of translational motion. We also need to simultaneously measure the three components of rotational motion and the many components of strains. A golden opportunity to improve our understanding of earthquakes lies in the near field of large earthquakes (within about 25 km of the earthquake ruptures), where nonlinear rock and soil response influences ground motions in a complicated way.