Frequency dependent amplification of weak ground motions in Porirua and Lower Hutt, New Zealand

  • J. John Taber Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, NZ
  • Euan G. C. Smith GNS Science, Lower Hutt, New Zealand


The relative ground response due to microearthquakes has been examined at a total of 36 sites in the Porirua and Lower Hutt regions of New Zealand, as part of a multi-disciplinary microzoning project conducted with the Wellington Regional Council. The sites were studied in two separate experiments and were chosen to sample a variety of soil types and depths ranging from strong rock to thick sections of alluvial gravels and sands to soft water-saturated fine-grained deposits. The amplitude response of each site relative to a bedrock reference site has been determined as a function of frequency. Fourier spectral ratios (Fsr) were calculated for each earthquake and then between three and twenty-six earthquakes were averaged together at each of the sites. Spectral ratios of individual earthquakes varied significantly from the average spectral ratio.

In the Hutt Valley there is a gradual down-valley increase in shaking in a similar pattern to the down-valley increase of the depth to bedrock and thickness of near-surface soft sediment. The response at the upper-most valley sites, underlain by less than 50 m of alluvial gravel and silty sand, is similar to the response at the rock sites on the side of the valley (Fsr = 2.4) while the Fourier spectral ratios reach 14 at the lower-most valley sites, which are underlain by greater than 20 m of soft sediment. The highest amplifications were recorded at two sites on soft flexible sediments (10 to 35 m thick) in an enclosed valley (Fsr = 16 to 18) and a site on an apparently drained and filled swamp (Fsr = 15). A spectral ratio of 18 corresponds to an increase in peak ground velocity by a factor of 5.

The amplification at most Lower Hutt sites occurred over a broad frequency band from 0.5 Hz to up to 5 Hz, with the high frequency limit of the band decreasing as the spectral ratio in the band increased. Two of the flexible sediment sites exhibited a very narrow frequency response with a peak in the 1-2 Hz range, similar to three flexible sediment sites in the Porirua basin where the amplification was in the 1-3 Hz frequency band. These flexible sediment sites had Fourier spectral ratios of up to 18 relative to a hard rock site. Three other Porirua sites had spectral ratios greater than 5 at some frequency. Two of these sites were on fan alluvium and fine grained sediment, while the third was on siltly sand on a topographic ridge. The remaining five sites were on weathered gravels and showed little amplification.


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How to Cite
Taber, J. J., & Smith, E. G. C. (1992). Frequency dependent amplification of weak ground motions in Porirua and Lower Hutt, New Zealand. Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, 25(4), 303-331.