Assessing the Seismic Hazard in Charleston, South Carolina: Comparisons Among Statistical Models


Heather H. Student

Master's Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Virginia Tech in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Science


Geological Sciences


Dr. J. Arthur Snoke

January 27, 1997
Blacksburg, Virginia


Seismic hazard calculations for sites in eastern North America have traditionally assumed a Poisson process to describe the temporal behavior of earthquakes and have employed the Gutenberg-Richter relationship to define the frequency distribution of earthquake magnitude. For sites in areas where geological information indicates recurrent, large earthquakes, however, such data imply a rate for large events which often exceeds that predicted by the Gutenberg-Richter relationship. One way in which this discrepancy can be reconciled is to assume that the larger events occur as a time-dependent, or renewal, process and possess a "characteristic earthquake" magnitude distribution. The main purpose of this study is to make a quantitative comparison of seismic hazard estimates for Charleston of the influences of 1) the Poisson temporal model assuming the Gutenberg-Richter and characteristic earthquake magnitude recurrence relationships with 2) the renewal temporal model assuming the characteristic magnitude recurrence relationship. Other issues that are examined are the sensitivity of uncertainties of hazard model parameters such as maximum magnitude and seismic source delineation.

Probabilistic seismic hazard calculations for the next 50 years were performed at Charleston for all potential seismic sources. The highest estimate of seismic hazard was obtained with the Poisson temporal model and characteristic earthquake recurrence relationship. The lowest hazard was obtained with the renewal temporal model and characteristic magnitude recurrence relationship. The results of this study are in good agreement with hazard estimates for Charleston in the most recent national seismic hazard maps.

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