Bulletin of Earthquake Engineering

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 1221–1235 | Cite as

Monitoring the structural dynamic response of a masonry tower: comparing classical and time-frequency analyses

  • Rocco Ditommaso
  • Marco Mucciarelli
  • Stefano Parolai
  • Matteo Picozzi
Original Research Paper


The monitoring of the evolution of structural dynamic response under transient loads must be carried out to understand the physical behaviour of building subjected to earthquake ground motion, as well as to calibrate numerical models simulating their dynamic behaviour. Fourier analysis is one of the most used tools for estimating the dynamic characteristics of a system. However, the intrinsic assumption of stationarity of the signal imposes severe limitations upon its application to transient earthquake signals or when the dynamic characteristics of systems change over time (e.g., when the frequency of vibration of a structure decreases due to damage). Some of these limitations could be overcome by using the Short Time Fourier Transform (STFT). However, the width of the moving window adopted for the analysis has to be fixed as a function of the minimum frequency of interest, using the best compromise between resolution in both the time and frequency domains. Several other techniques for time-frequency analysis of seismic signals recorded in buildings have been recently proposed. These techniques are more suitable than the STFT for the application described above, although they also present drawbacks that should be taken into account while interpreting the results. In this study, we characterize the dynamic behaviour of the Falkenhof Tower (Potsdam, Germany) while forced by ambient noise and vibrations produced by an explosion. We compare the results obtained by standard frequency domain analysis with those derived by different time-frequency methods. In particular, the results obtained by the standard Transfer Function method, Horizontal to Vertical Spectral Ratio (HVSR), Short Time Fourier Transform (STFT), Empirical Mode Decomposition (EMD) and S-Transform are discussed while most of the techniques provide similar results, the EMD analyses suffer some problems derived from the mode mixing in most of the Intrinsic Mode Functions (IMFs).


Structural health monitoring Dynamic identification Empirical Mode Decomposition S-transform Masonry tower 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rocco Ditommaso
    • 1
  • Marco Mucciarelli
    • 1
  • Stefano Parolai
    • 2
  • Matteo Picozzi
    • 2
  1. 1.DiSGG, University of BasilicataPotenzaItaly
  2. 2.Helmholtz-Zentrum PotsdamDeutsches GeoForschungs ZentrumPotsdamGermany

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