Section: Application Domains

Computational geoseismics

Computational challenges in geoseismics span a wide range of disciplines and have significant scientific and societal implications. Two important topics are mitigation of seismic hazards and discovery of economically recoverable petroleum resources. The team is before all considering the fist of these topics. Indeed, to understand the basic science of earthquakes and to help engineers better prepare for such an event, scientists want to identify which regions are likely to experience the most intense shaking, particularly in populated sediment-filled basins. This understanding can be used to improve building codes in high risk areas and to help engineers design safer structures, potentially saving lives and property. In the absence of deterministic earthquake prediction, forecasting of earthquake ground motion based on simulation of scenarios is one of the most promising tools to mitigate earthquake related hazard. This requires intense modeling that meets the spatial and temporal resolution scales of the continuously increasing density and resolution of the seismic instrumentation, which record dynamic shaking at the surface, as well as of the basin models. Another important issue is to improve our physical understanding of the earthquake rupture processes and seismicity. Large-scale simulations of earthquake rupture dynamics, and of fault interactions, are currently the only means to investigate these multi-scale physics together with data assimilation and inversion. High resolution models are also required to develop and assess fast operational analysis tools for real time seismology and early warning systems. Modeling and forecasting earthquake ground motion in large basins is a challenging and complex task. The complexity arises from several sources. First, multiple scales characterize the earthquake source and basin response: the shortest wavelengths are measured in tens of meters, whereas the longest measure in kilometers; basin dimensions are on the order of tens of kilometers, and earthquake sources up to hundreds of kilometers. Second, temporal scales vary from the hundredth of a second necessary to resolve the highest frequencies of the earthquake source up to as much as several minutes of shaking within the basin. Third, many basins have a highly irregular geometry. Fourth, the soil's material properties are highly heterogeneous. And fifth, geology and source parameters are observable only indirectly and thus introduce uncertainty in the modeling process. In this context, the team undertakes research and development activites aiming at the design of numerical modeling strategies for accurately and efficiently handling the interaction of seismic waves generated by an earthquake source with complex geological media. These activities are conducted in the framework of a collaboration with CETE Méditerranée which is a regional technical and engineering centre whose activtites are concerned with seismic risk assessment studies.