Journal of Seismology

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 433–452 | Cite as

Ground motion characterization and seismic hazard assessment in Spain: context, problems and recent developments

Original Article


This article points out some particular features conditioning seismic hazard assessments (SHA) in Spain, a region with low–moderate seismicity. Although sized earthquakes occurred in the past, as evidenced by historical documents and neotectonic studies, no large events occurred during the last decades. The absence of strong motion records corresponding to earthquakes with magnitude larger than 5.5 is an important obstacle for the development of ground motion models constrained by local data, with the consequent difficulty in SHA studies. In this paper, some recent developments aiming at providing solutions to these difficulties are presented. Specifically, a strong motion databank containing a massive collection of accelerograms and response spectra from different configurations source-path-site corresponding to earthquakes all over the world is introduced, together with software utilities for its management. A first application of this databank is the development of specific ground motion models for Spain and for the Mediterranean region that predict peak ground accelerations as a function of several definitions of magnitude, distance and soil class. The predictive power of these ground motion models is tested by contrasting their estimates with recently recorded ground motions. The comparison between our ground-motion models with others proposed in the literature for other areas reveals a regular overestimation of the expected ground motions at Spanish sites by the non-local models. Consequently, SHA studies based in external models may overestimate the predicted hazard at the Iberian sites. In the last part of the paper a method for checking whether the response spectra proposed in the Spanish Building Code (NCSE-02) are consistent with actual accelerometric data from recent low magnitude earthquakes is applied. The spectral shapes of the Spanish Building Code NCSE-02 are compared with the response spectral shapes deduced from the available accelerograms by normalising the response spectra with the recorded PGA. It is appreciated that the NCSE-02 spectral shapes are exceeded by a large number of actual spectral shapes for short periods (around 0.2 s), a result to be taken into account in further revisions of the NCSE-02 code. The issues tackled in this work constitute not only an improvement for ground-motion characterisation in Spain, but also provide guidelines of general interest for potential applications in other regions with similar seismicity.


Seismic hazard Strong ground motion characterization Building-code Spain 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ETSI Topografía, Geodesia y CartografíaUniversidad Politécnica de MadridMadridSpain

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