Seismic response of Little Red Hill - towards an understanding of topographic effects on ground motion and rock slope failure
Thesis DisciplineEngineering Geology
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
A field experiment was conducted at near Lake Coleridge in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, focusing on the kinematic response of bedrock-dominated mountain edifices to seismic shaking. The role of topographic amplification of seismic waves causing degradation and possible failure of rock masses was examined. To study site effects of topography on seismic ground motion in a field situation, a small, elongated, and bedrock-dominated mountain ridge (Little Red Hill) was chosen and equipped with a seismic array. In total seven EARSS instruments (Mark L-4-3D seismometers) were installed on the crest, the flank and the base of the 210 m high, 500 m wide, and 800 m long mountain edifice from February to July 2006. Seismic records of local and regional earthquakes, as well as seismic signals generated by an explosive source nearby, were recorded and are used to provide information on the modes of vibration as well as amplification and deamplification effects on different parts of the edifice. The ground motion records were analyzed using three different methods:comparisons of peak ground accelerations (PGA), power spectral density analysis (PSD), and standard spectral ratio analysis (SSR). Time and frequency domain analyses show that site amplification is concentrated along the elongated crest of the edifice where amplifications of up to 1100 % were measured relative to the motion at the flat base. Theoretical calculations and frequency analyses of field data indicate a maximum response along the ridge crest of Little Red Hill for frequencies of about 5 Hz, which correlate to wavelengths approximately equal to the half-width or height of the edifice (~240 m). The consequence of amplification effects on the stability and degradation of rock masses can be seen: areas showing high amplification effects overlap with the spatial distribution of seismogenic block fields at Little Red Hill. Additionally, a laboratory-scale (1:1,000) physical model was constructed to investigate the effect of topographic amplification of ground motion across a mountain edifice by simulating the situation of the Little Red Hill field experiment in a smallscale laboratory environment. The laboratory results show the maximum response of the model correlates to the fundamental mode of vibration of Little Red Hill at approximately 2.2 Hz. It is concluded that topography, geometry and distance to the seismic source, play a key role causing amplification effects of seismic ground motion and degradation of rock mass across bedrock-dominated mountain edifices.