2020 – Use of Conditional Mean Spectra with Minimum Magnitude less than 5 in Seismic Hazard Analysis

Paul Somerville, Andreas Skarlatoudis, Jeff Bayless, Polly Guan

The 2019 ANCOLD seismic guidelines state that “A hazard assessment should be conducted for earthquake magnitudes Mw 5 and above. However, under certain circumstances, smaller magnitude earthquakes may form the lower limit. With masonry dams, slab and buttress dams, older concrete dams, and structural concrete components of dams, Mw 4 earthquake magnitudes should form the lower limit.” However, when using probabilistic Uniform Hazard Spectra (UHS) with Mmin less than 5.0 per the 2019 ANCOLD Guidelines, the hazard will be overestimated unless Conditional Mean Spectra (CMS) are used to represent the ground motions. As described by Somerville et al. (2015), use of the UHS can significantly overestimate the seismic hazard levels presented by individual earthquake scenarios because the UHS envelopes the ground motions from multiple earthquake scenarios in one spectrum. This overestimation is especially true of the ground motions from small magnitude earthquake scenarios. The probabilistic UHS may have large short period ground motions with contributions from a range of scenario earthquakes, but if the UHS is used as the design spectrum, these ground motions will often be represented by earthquake scenarios having inappropriately large magnitudes, long durations, and high long period ground motion levels. As a result, these design ground motions have the potential to overestimate the response of the structure under consideration. By using CMS spectra and time histories, the large probabilistic peak accelerations, predominantly from small earthquakes, are better represented by earthquakes having appropriately small magnitudes, short durations, and lower long period ground motion levels, yielding more realistic estimates of the response of the structure.


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