An article yesterday on newswire service Ascribe.org discusses a new modeling protocol for determining how buildings will withstand an earthquake. The article reads:
How much damage will certain steel-frame, earthquake-resistant buildings sustain when a large temblor strikes? It’s a complicated, multifaceted question, and researchers from the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Pau, France, have answered it with unprecedented specificity using a new modeling protocol.
The results involve supercomputer simulations of what would happen to specific areas of greater Los Angeles in specific earthquake scenarios and have been published in the latest issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, the premier scientific journal dedicated to earthquake research.
“This study has brought together state-of-the-art 3-D simulation tools in earthquake engineering and seismology to address important questions that people living in seismically active regions around the world worry about,” said Dr. Swaminathan Krishnan, a postdoctoral scholar in geophysics at Caltech and lead author of the study.
“What if a large earthquake was to occur on a nearby fault? Will a particular building withstand the shaking? This prototype study illustrates how, with the help of high-performance computing, 3-D simulations of earthquakes can be combined with 3-D nonlinear analyses of buildings to provide realistic, quantitative answers to these questions.”
The publication of the paper is an ambitious attempt by the researchers to enhance and improve the methodology used to assess building integrity, said Jeroen Tromp, the McMillan Professor of Geophysics and director of the Seismological Laboratory at Caltech. “We are trying to change the way in which seismologists and engineers approach this difficult interdisciplinary problem,” Tromp said.
The new research published in BSSA simulates the effects that two different 7.9-magnitude San Andreas earthquakes would have on two hypothetical 18-story steel frame buildings located at 636 sites on a grid that covers the Los Angeles and San Fernando basins. Just such an earthquake occurred on 9 January 1857, and seismologists generally agree that the San Andreas has the potential for such an event every 200-300 years. To put this in context, the much smaller 17 January 1994 magnitude-6.7 Northridge earthquake caused 57 deaths and economic losses of more than $40 billion.
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