Shallow shear velocity and seismic microzonation of the urban Las Vegas, Nevada, basin

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Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America





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Las Vegas Valley has a rapidly growing population exceeding 1.5 million, subject to significant seismic risk. Surveys of shallow shear velocity performed in the Las Vegas urban area included a 13-km-long transect parallel to Las Vegas Blvd. (The Strip), and borehole and surface-wave measurements of 30 additional sites. The transect was completed quickly and economically using the refraction microtremor method, providing shear velocity versus depth profiles at 49 locations. The lowest velocities in the transect, nehrp d class, are near intrabasin faults found near Interstate 15 and Lake Mead Blvd. Calcite cementation of alluvium (a.k.a. caliche) along the Las Vegas Strip elevates Vs30 values to 500–600 m/sec, nehrp c class. Our transect measurements correlate poorly against geologic map units, which do not predict the conditions of any individual site with accuracy sufficient for engineering application. Some usda soil map units do correlate, and Vs30 predictions based on measurements of soil units match transect measurements in the transect area. Extending soil-map predictions away from the area of dense measurement coverage generally failed to predict new measurements. Further, for several test sites the predictions were not conservative, in that the soil model predicted higher Vs30 than was later measured (predicting lesser potential ground motion). Subsurface information is needed to build a Vs30 model extending predictions throughout Las Vegas Valley. A detailed stratigraphic model built by correlating >1100 deep well logs in Las Vegas predicts Vs30 better than surface maps, but again only in parts of the Valley well-measured for velocity. The stratigraphic model yields good predictions of our transect Vs30 measurements. It is less accurate, although at least conservative, when extended to sites away from the transect.


Earthquake hazard analysis; Earthquake intensity; Rayleigh waves; Seismology; Shear strength of soils


Civil and Environmental Engineering | Environmental Engineering | Geophysics and Seismology | Soil Science




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