How Does the Ground Shake?

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Science  26 Mar 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5410, pp. 2032-2033
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5410.2032

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When earthquakes occur near man-made structures such as buildings or dams, not only the absolute magnitude but also the precise characteristics of ground motions of the main-shock and the aftershock determine the damage that occurs. Unconsolidated materials such as soil amplify ground motions more than rocks do, but at the high strains near major earthquakes, the behavior of the soils may be modified by scattering or nonlinear effects. Frankel discusses recent insights gained by O'Connell (page 2045) that shed new light on these scattering effects and points out that closely spaced monitoring networks are imperative if we are to understand the time histories of earthquake ground motions.