A key element in the assessment of seismic hazard is the estimation of how energy propagation from a given earthquake is affected by crustal structure near the receiver and along the more distant propagation path. In this paper, we present data from a variety of sources in eastern North America recorded at epicentral distances of a few to 800 km, and characterize and interpret systematic features. Site effects have been classically considered in terms of amplification either within a sediment-filled valley or from a single topographic feature (Geli et al., 1988). We present evidence of high frequency (5–30 Hz) resonances observed in hard-rock recordings of both body waves and Lg waves, and suggest that site effect should be expanded regionally to include structural and topographic information over sufficiently large areas to include several wavelengths of any features that may interact with seismic waves in the frequency range of interest. A growing body of evidence suggests that ground motions at high frequencies recorded at large epicentral distances in eastern North America are controlled by resonance effects. We hypothesize that a fundamental difference between eastern and western North America spectra stems from a combination of differences in the character of topography and near-surface structure. Active tectonics of western North America gives rise to a complex crust that scatters seismic energy in a random manner and results in very effective attenuation of high frequencies. The older eastern North American crust contains scatterers that are more ordered, with characteristic length scales that give rise to resonance phenomena in the frequency band critical for earthquake hazard. We present preliminary analysis of topographic data from the Adirondack Mountains in New York that demonstrates the existence of characteristic length scales on the order of up to 1–3 kilometers. Features with these length scales will effectively scatter energy at frequencies in the 1 to 10 Hz range.

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