Articles | Volume 17, issue 6
Research article
21 Jun 2017
Research article |  | 21 Jun 2017

Study on the applicability of the microtremor HVSR method to support seismic microzonation in the town of Idrija (W Slovenia)

Andrej Gosar

Abstract. The town of Idrija is located in an area with an increased seismic hazard in W Slovenia and is partly built on alluvial sediments or artificial mining and smelting deposits which can amplify seismic ground motion. There is a need to prepare a comprehensive seismic microzonation in the near future to support seismic hazard and risk assessment. To study the applicability of the microtremor horizontal-to-vertical spectral ratio (HVSR) method for this purpose, 70 free-field microtremor measurements were performed in a town area of 0.8 km2 with 50–200 m spacing between the points. The HVSR analysis has shown that it is possible to derive the sediments' resonance frequency at 48 points. With the remaining one third of the measurements, nearly flat HVSR curves were obtained, indicating a small or negligible impedance contrast with the seismological bedrock. The isofrequency (a range of 2.5–19.5 Hz) and the HVSR peak amplitude (a range of 3–6, with a few larger values) maps were prepared using the natural neighbor interpolation algorithm and compared with the geological map and the map of artificial deposits. Surprisingly no clear correlation was found between the distribution of resonance frequencies or peak amplitudes and the known extent of the supposed soft sediments or deposits. This can be explained by relatively well-compacted and rather stiff deposits and the complex geometry of sedimentary bodies. However, at several individual locations it was possible to correlate the shape and amplitude of the HVSR curve with the known geological structure and prominent site effects were established in different places. In given conditions (very limited free space and a high level of noise) it would be difficult to perform an active seismic refraction or MASW measurements to investigate the S-wave velocity profiles and the thickness of sediments in detail, which would be representative enough for microzonation purposes. The importance of the microtremor method is therefore even greater, because it enables a direct estimation of the resonance frequency without knowing the internal structure and physical properties of the shallow subsurface. The results of this study can be directly used in analyses of the possible occurrence of soil–structure resonance of individual buildings, including important cultural heritage mining and other structures protected by UNESCO. Another application of the derived free-field isofrequency map is to support soil classification according to the recent trends in building codes and to calibrate Vs profiles obtained from the microtremor array or geophysical measurements.

Final-revised paper