Amplification Behaviour of Compressional Waves in Unconsolidated Sediments

Janneke van Ginkel*, Elmer Ruigrok, Rick Wentinck, Rien Herber

*Corresponding author for this work

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Similar to horizontal earthquake motions, vertical motions are amplified depedent on the local site conditions which can be critical for the safety of certain structures. Production of natural gas in Groningen, the Netherlands, results in reservoir compaction causing low magnitude, shallow earthquakes which are recorded with a borehole seismic network. These recordings form an excellent data set to understand how shallow unconsolidated subsurface geology influences the amplification behaviour of compressional waves (P-waves). First, we present borehole and single-station techniques (amplification factors, empirical transfer functions (ETF) and V/H spectral ratio implementations) to quantify vertical amplification. We show that vertical-wave incidence is a reasonable assumption. All techniques are capable of emphasising the sites with strong amplification of vertical ground motion during an earthquake. Subsequently, we compare ETF with single-station methods with the aim to develop proxies for vertical site-response using spectral ratios. In a second step, we link vertical site-response with shallow subsurface conditions, like the P-wave velocity and peat content. To better understand the amplification mechanisms, we analytically simulate P-wave propagation. In the simulations, we compute synthetic transfer functions using realistic subsurface conditions and make a comparison with the ETF. The simulations support the hypothesis that thin layers of shallow gas, originating from the Holocene peat, result in wave amplification. We observe strong vertical site-response in particular in the eastern part of Groningen, with industrial facilities and pipeline infrastructure in the region. Here, if high vertical amplifications are persistent at large earthquake magnitudes, appreciable levels of vertical loading may be expected. This study demonstrates that vertical motions should be assessed separately from horizontal motions, given that the amplification behaviour of P-waves is affected by distinctive mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number812658
Number of pages17
JournalFrontiers in Earth Science
Publication statusPublished - 31-Mar-2022


  • 2D wave propagation modeling
  • Earthquakes
  • transfer functions
  • unconsolidated sediments
  • V/H spectral ratios
  • vertical ground motion amplification

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