Seismic Hazard Studies in the U.K.: Source Specification Problems of Intraplate Seismicity
- Cite this article as:
- Musson, R.M.W. Natural Hazards (1997) 15: 105. doi:10.1023/A:1007970907854
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Although the U.K. is in an area of only low to moderate seismicity, the seismic hazard is sufficient to pose a threat to sensitive structures such as chemical plants and nuclear facilities. In quantifying the level of hazard by conventional probabilistic methodology, however, some problems arise in attempting to interpret earthquake data in terms of geological structure and faults. In the U.K., not only is it impossible to identify any demonstrably active faults, but also it is extremely difficult to discern any relationship between the pattern of seismicity and local or regional geological structure.
This study discusses the use of two zonation approaches which complement each other in such a way that the general character and trend of seismicity is preserved. In one approach, the zonation is informed by the structural geology, where possible; geological zonation is avoided if it produces sources with heterogeneous seismicity. In the other approach, the record of past earthquakes is divided up into very small zones around individual epicentres or groups of epicentres, the size of each zone usually being proportional to the uncertainty in the epicentral determination of the appropriate event. This zonation preserves an observed tendency of some British earthquakes to repeat themselves. It is suggested that, in intraplate areas such as the U.K., it is often inappropriate to attempt to model individual fault sources. No faults in the U.K. are provably active. Because an earthquake of moderate size can occur on a very short fault segment, it is impractical to restrict fault modelling to major features. Even the two largest U.K. faults, suspected to be active, pose problems in attributing historical seismicity to them as distinct features.