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# Peak ground acceleration

Peak ground acceleration (PGA) is a measure of earthquake acceleration on the ground and an
important input parameter for earthquake engineering, also known as the design basis
earthquake ground motion (DBEGM)[1]

Unlike the Richter and moment magnitude scales, it is not a measure of the total energy
(magnitude, or size) of an earthquake, but rather of how hard the earth shakes in a given
geographic area (the intensity). The Mercalli intensity scale uses personal reports and
observations to measure earthquake intensity but PGA is measured by instruments, such as
accelerographs, and it generally correlates well with the Mercalli scale.[2]

The peak horizontal acceleration (PHA) is the most commonly used type of ground acceleration
in engineering applications, and is used to set building codes and design hazard risks. In an
earthquake, damage to buildings and infrastructure is related more closely to ground motion,
rather than the magnitude of the earthquake. For moderate earthquakes, PGA is the best
determinate of damage; in severe earthquakes, damage is more often correlated with peak ground
velocity.[2]

Contents
[hide]

 1 Geophysics

##  4 PGA hazard risks worldwide

 5 Notable earthquakes

 7 References

 8 Bibliography

 Geophysics
Earthquake energy is dispersed in waves from the epicentre, causing ground movement
horizontally (in two directions) and vertically. PGA records the acceleration (rate of change of
speed) of these movements, while peak ground velocity is the greatest speed (rate of movement)
reached by the ground, and peak displacement is the distance moved. [3][4] These values vary in
different earthquakes, and in differing sites within one earthquake event, depending on a number
of factors. These include the length of the fault, magnitude, the depth of the quake, the distance
from the epicentre, the duration (length of the shake cycle), and the geology of the ground
(subsurface). Shallow-focused earthquakes generate stronger shaking (acceleration) than
intermediate and deep quakes, since the energy is released closer to the surface.[5]

Peak ground acceleration can be expressed in g (the acceleration due to Earth's gravity,
equivalent to g-force) as either a decimal or percentage; in m/s2 (1g=9.81 m/s2);[3] or in Gal,
where 1 Gal is equal to 0.01 m/s² (1g=981 Gal).

The ground type can significantly influence ground acceleration, so PGA values can display
extreme variability over distances of a few kilometers, particularly with moderate to large
earthquakes.[6] The varying PGA results from an earthquake can be displayed on a shake map.[7]
Due to the complex conditions affecting PGA, earthquakes of similar magnitude can offer
disparate results, with many moderate magnitude earthquakes generating significantly larger
PGA values than larger magnitude quakes.

## During an earthquake, ground acceleration is measured in three directions: vertically (V or UD,

for up-down) and two perpendicular horizontal directions (H1 and H2), often north-south (NS)
and east-west (EW). The peak acceleration in each of these directions is recorded, with the
highest individual value often reported. Alternatively, a combined value for a given station can
be noted. The peak horizontal ground acceleration (PHA or PHGA) can reached by selecting the
higher individual recording, taking the mean of the two values, or calculating a vector sum of the
two components. A three-component value can also be reached, by taking the vertical component
into consideration also.

In seismic engineering, the effective peak acceleration (EPA) is often used, which tends to be ⅔ -
¾ the PGA.

##  Seismic risk and engineering

Study of geographic areas combined with an assessment of historical earthquakes allows
geologists to determine seismic risk and to create seismic hazard maps, which show the likely
PGA values to be experienced in a region during an earthquake, with a probability of exceedance
(PE). Seismic engineers and government planning departments use these values to determine the
appropriate earthquake loading for buildings in each zone, with key identified structures (such as
hospitals, bridges, power plants) needing to survive the maximum considered event (MCE).

Damage to buildings is related to both peak ground velocity and PGA, and the duration of the
earthquake – the longer high-level shaking persists, the greater the likelihood of damage.

##  Comparison of instrumental and felt intensity

Peak ground acceleration provides a measurement of instrumental intensity, that is, ground
shaking recorded by seismic instruments. Other intensity scales measure felt intensity, based on
eyewitness reports, felt shaking, and observed damage. There is correlation between these scales,
but not always absolute agreement since experiences and damage can be affected by many other
factors, including the quality of earthquake engineering.

Generally speaking,

##  0.02 g (0.2 m/s²) – people lose their balance

 0.50g – very high; well-designed buildings can survive if the duration is short.[4]

##  Correlation with the Mercalli scale

The United States Geological Survey developed an Instrumental Intensity scale which maps peak
ground acceleration and peak ground velocity on an intensity scale similar to the felt Mercalli
scale. These values are used to create shake maps by seismologists around the world.

## Instrumental Acceleration Velocity

Perceived Shaking Potential Damage
Intensity (g) (cm/s)
I < 0.0017 < 0.1 Not Felt None
II-III 0.0017 - 0.014 0.1 - 1.1 Weak None
IV 0.014 - 0.039 1.1 - 3.4 Light None
V 0.039 - 0.092 3.4 - 8.1 Moderate Very light
VI 0.092 - 0.18 8.1 - 16 Strong Light
VII 0.18 - 0.34 16 - 31 Very Strong Moderate
VIII 0.34 - 0.65 31 - 60 Severe Moderate to Heavy
IX 0.65 - 1.24 60 - 116 Violent Heavy
X+ > 1.24 > 116 Extreme Very Heavy

##  Other intensity scales

In the 7-class Japan Meteorological Agency seismic intensity scale, the highest intensity
earthquake, Shindo 7, generally covers accelerations greater than 4 m/s² (0.41 g).

##  PGA hazard risks worldwide

In India, areas with expected PGA values higher than 0.36g are classed as "Zone 5", or "Very
High Damage Risk Zone".

##  Notable earthquakes

PGA PGA
single direction vector sum (H1, Depth
Mag Fatalities Earthquake
(max recorded) H2, V)
(max recorded)
2011 Tōhoku earthquake and
2.7g[8] 2.99 g[9][10] 9.0 32 km >10035 [11]
tsunami
2.2g[12][13] 6.3 5 km 172* 2011 Christchurch earthquake
2008 Iwate-Miyagi Nairiku
4.36g[14] 6.9/7.2 8 km 12
earthquake
1.7g[15] 6.7 19 km 57 1994 California earthquake
1.26g[16][17] 7.1 10 km 0 2010 Canterbury earthquake
2007 Chūetsu offshore
1.01g[18] 6.6 10 km 11
earthquake
1.01g[19] 7.3 8 km 2,415 1999 Jiji earthquake
0.8g 6.8 16 km 6,434 1995 Kobe earthquake
0.78g[20] 8.8 35 km 521 2010 Chile earthquake
0.6g[21] 6.0 10 km 143 1999 Athens earthquake
0.51g[22] 6.4 612 2005 Zarand earthquake
92,000-
0.5g[15] 7.0 13 km 2010 Haiti earthquake
316,000
0.367g[23] 5.2 1 km 9 2011 Lorca earthquake
0.25 - 0.3g[24] 9.5 33 km 1,655 [25] 1960 Valdivia earthquake
0.24g[26] 6.4 628 2004 Morocco earthquake
0.18g[27] 9.2 23 km 143 1964 Alaska earthquake
1978 Miyagi earthquake
0.125g[28] 7.7 44 km 27
(Sendai)

 Spectral acceleration

##  Japan Meteorological Agency seismic intensity scale

 Earthquake simulation

 References
1. ^ [Nuclear Power Plants and Earthquakes http://www.world-
nuclear.org/info/inf18.html Nuclear Power Plants and Earthquakes], accessed 2011-04-08

## 2. ^ a b "ShakeMap Scientific Background. Rapid Instrumental Intensity Maps.".

Earthquake Hazards Program. U. S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 22 March 2011.

## 3. ^ a b "Explanation of Parameters". Geologic Hazards Science Center. U.S.

Geological Survey. Retrieved 22 March 2011.

4. ^ a b Lorant, Gabor (17 June 2010). "Seismic Design Principles". Whole Building
Design Guide. National Institute of Building Sciences. Retrieved 15 March 2011.

## 5. ^ "Magnitude 6.6 - NEAR THE WEST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN".

Earthquake summary. USGS. 16 July 2001. Retrieved 15 March 2011.

## 6. ^ "ShakeMap Scientific Background. Peak Acceleration Maps.". Earthquake

Hazards Program. U. S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 22 March 2011.

## 7. ^ "ShakeMap Scientific Background". Earthquake Hazards Program. U. S.

Geological Survey. Retrieved 22 March 2011.

8. ^ Erol Kalkan, Volkan Sevilgen (17 March 2011). "March 11, 2011 M9.0 Tohoku,
Japan Earthquake: Preliminary results". United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 22
March 2011.

9. ^
http://www.kyoshin.bosai.go.jp/kyoshin/topics/html20110311144626/main_20110311144
626.html

10. ^ "2011 Off the Pacific Coast of Tohoku earthquake, Strong Ground Motion".
National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention. Retrieved 18
March 2011.

## 11. ^ "Damage Situation and Police Countermeasures associated with 2011Tohoku

District - off the Pacific Earthquake". Emergency Disaster Countermeasures
Headquarters. National Police Agency of Japan.
12. ^ "Feb 22 2011 - Christchurch badly damaged by magnitude 6.3 earthquake".
Geonet. GNS Science. 23 February 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2011.

13. ^ "PGA intensity map". Geonet. GNS Science. Retrieved 24 February 2011.

## 14. ^ Masumi Yamada et al (July/August 2010). "Spatially Dense Velocity Structure

Exploration in the Source Region of the Iwate-Miyagi Nairiku Earthquake".
Seismological Research Letters v. 81; no. 4;. Seismological Society of America. p. 597-
604. Retrieved 21 March 2011.

15. ^ a b Lin, Rong-Gong; Allen, Sam (26 February 2011). "New Zealand quake raises
questions about L.A. buildings". Los Angeles Times (Tribune). Retrieved 27 February
2011.

16. ^ Carter, Hamish (24 February 2011). "Technically it's just an aftershock". New
Zealand Herald (APN Holdings). Retrieved 24 February 2011.

17. ^ "M 7.1, Darfield (Canterbury), September 4, 2010". GeoNet. GNS Science.
Retrieved 7 March 2011.

18. ^ Katsuhiko, Ishibashi (11 August 2001). "Why Worry? Japan's Nuclear Plants at
Grave Risk From Quake Damage". Japan Focus (Asia Pacific Journal). Retrieved 15
March 2011.

19. ^ Central Weather Bureau. (2 September 2004). [1]. Retrieved 21 March 2011.

de Mayo 2010".

## 21. ^ Anastasiadis A. N., et al. "The Athens (Greece) Earthquake of September 7,

1999: Preliminary Report on Strong Motion Data and Structural Response". Institute of
Engineering Seismology and Earthquake Engineering. MCEER. Retrieved 22 March
2011.

22. ^ "Earthquake Mw 6.3 in Iran on February 22nd, 2005 at 02:25 UTC". European-
Mediterranean Seismological Centre. Retrieved 7 March 2011.

## 23. ^ Los terremotos paradojicos - Seismo mortal en Murcia

24. ^ Crustal deformation associated with the 1960 earthquake events in the south of
Chile

25. ^ Webber, Jude (27 February 2010). "Massive earthquake batters Chile".
Financial Times. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
26. ^ USGS Earthquake Hazards Program » Magnitude 6.4 - NEAR NORTH COAST
OF MOROCCO

27. ^ National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on the Alaska Earthquake, The
great Alaska earthquake of 1964, Volume 1, Part 1, National Academies, 1968 p. 285

## 28. ^ Brady, A. Gerald (1980). An investigation of the Miyagi-ken-oki, Japan,

earthquake of June 12, 1978. National Bureau of Standards. pp. 123.

 Bibliography
 Murphy, J.R.; o'brien (1977). "The correlation of peak ground acceleration amplitude
with seismic intensity and other physical parameters". Bulletin of the Seismological
Society of America 67 (3): 877–915.

##  Campbell, K.W. (1997). "Empirical near-source attenuation relationships for horizontal

and vertical components of peak ground acceleration, peak ground velocity, and pseudo-
absolute acceleration response spectra". Seismological Research Letters 68: 154–179.

##  Campbell, K.W.; Y. Bozorgnia (2003). "Updated near-source ground-motion (attenuation)

relations for the horizontal and vertical components of peak ground acceleration and
acceleration response spectra". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America 93 (1):
314–331. doi:10.1785/0120020029.

##  Wald, D.J.; V. Quitoriano, T.H. Heaton, H. Kanamori (1999). "Relationships between

peak ground acceleration, peak ground velocity, and modified Mercalli intensity in
California". Earthquake Spectra 15: 557. doi:10.1193/1.1586058.

## Categories: Seismology and earthquake terminology | Earthquake engineering

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