Open Journal of Geology, 2012, 2, 213-228 Published Online October 2012 (
Soil and Sediments Microzonation for Evaluation of Site
Effects on Earthquake Damages in Mobarakeh,
Esfahan, Iran
Khalil Rezaei1*, Nasibeh Mumsaz2, Hasan Hejazi2, Reza Sarraf3, Susan Norouzi3
1Tarbiat Moallem (Kharazmi) University, Tehran, Iran
2Azad Islamic University of Khurasgan, Esfahan, Iran
3Azad Islamic University of Mobarakeh, Esfahan, Iran
Email: *
Received June 26, 2012; revised July 27, 2012; accepted August 24, 2012
As an important step in effectively reducing seismic risk and the vulnerability of the city of Mobarakeh to earthquakes,
a site effect microzonation Study was conducted. Seismic hazard analysis for a return period of 475 years was carried
out. Data from 10 borings was collected and analyzed, geophysical surveys were conducted and seismology and
geoelectric measurements taken in more than 17 stations through out the city. The study area was divided into a grid of
500 × 500 m2 elements and the sub-surface ground conditions were classified into 5 representative geotechnical profiles.
Electric resistivity was measured in close to 17 geotechnical boreholes and surface and sub-surface sediments were col-
lected and analyzed. Site response analyses were carried out on each representative profile using 30 different base rock
input motions. Distribution maps of site periods and peak ground acceleration and old and new texture buildings
through out the city were developed, providing a useful basis for land-use planning in the city.
Keywords: Soil; Sediment; Site Effect; Microzonation; Earthquake
1. Introduction
Ground shaking and its associated damage to engineered
structures can be strongly influenced, not only by source
and path effects, but also by surface and sub-surface
geological (depth and type of bedrock, underground sedi-
ments) and geomorphologic conditions in the vicinity,
known as “local site effects”. Iran is one of ten countries
with most unexpected events in the world. Evidence of
this can be found in two major seismic events in Iran in
the past two decades—1990 Manjil-Rudbar and the 2003
Bam earthquakes—that resulted in a large number of ca-
sualties. Although these cities had comparatively low
populations, the lack of suitable development and earth
quake risk management led to high human and physical
costs [1]. These tragedies prompted the local researchers
and government to implement earthquake risk mitigation
measures, including seismic hazard zonation and micro-
zonation of vulnerable cities, to facilitate urban planning.
Also, 96% of cities are located on alluvial sediments
around Iran and such researches are necessary for them.
The industrial and economic of Mobarakeh city, with
huge and important factories such as steel complex, is
situated 60 km southwest of Esfahan in center of Iran
(Figure 1) and covers an area of approximately 23 km2.
In the past two decades, it has experienced a sizeable
increase in population.
In previous studies [1,2] carried out a soil and sedi-
ment quality microzonation study of Bam city from
seismic hazard point of view. They estimated the hori-
zontal peak acceleration for basement rock with out con-
sidering soil types, based on the tectonics and seismicity
of the Kerman province using the Cornell approach.
They showed that the seismicity of Bam is not only af-
fected by well-known minor fault under the cities of Bam
and Baravat, but also by a major and active fault under
the city itself. Also, Kamalian et al., (2008) [3] per-
formed a completely similar project in Qom city. These
results prompted the government to implement immedi-
ate measures to prevent the kind of destruction seen in
previous earthquakes in most of cities in Iran. As a new
research, the Islamic Azad University of Mobarakeh car-
ried out a site effect microzonation study of this city in
2010. The goals of this investigation were to prepare
guide lines for further land-use planning and to provide
data for future studies of existing urban systems and
seismic rehabilitation processes. The geotechnical as-
pects of the program were divided into two parts: site
effects estimation and geotechnical hazards evaluation.
*Corresponding author.
opyright © 2012 SciRes. OJG
Figure 1. Location of Mobarakeh and study area limits.
This paper presents the major results obtained during the
site effect microzonation study.
2. Methodology
The methodology of soil and sediment quality and site
effect microzonation adopted in this study falls into the
category of Grade-3 zoning methods of the Japanese TC4
Zoning Manual, (1999) [4-6] and previous experiences of
Authors. After dividing the city into a grid of 500 × 500
m2, the following steps were taken:
Preparation of a seismic hazard map of the study area
for a return period of 475 years;
Gathering and investigation of the existent geological,
geotechnical, sedimentological and geophysical data
of the study area, including field observations and
Sampling and aerial photo studies;
Conducting complementary geophysical investigation,
as well as geoelectrical and seismology measurements
and sedimentological studies, through out the study
Several experimental analyses on soil and sediment
samples in TMU university laboratory;
Preparation of representative geotechnical profiles of
the city based on the geological, sedimentological, geo-
technical, geophysical and geoelectrical data;
Estimation of strong ground motion characteristics
using one-dimensional site response analysis of the
representative geotechnical profiles;
Preparation of the surface and sub-surface grain size
maps of the study area in the Geography Information
System (GIS) media and geological cross sections in
N-S and W-E directions;
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJG
Preparation of the final site periods and Peak Ground
Acceleration (PGA) maps of the study area in GIS.
3. General Geology
From a geomorphologic point of view, the city of Moba-
rakeh is situated on a flat area of Quaternary deposits.
The northern part of the city is constructed at the pied-
mont of a chain of medium latitude mountains with a
series folds. The predominant rock formations are K4
and K7 cretaceous units, consisting mainly of limestone
and sandstone. To the south and east, the city is sur-
rounded by very low and sparse hills (Figure 2). Tec-
tonic situation of area is very active that will describe in
seismicity section. Also, there are more than 200 wells
with high depths for agriculture and industrial applica-
tions using ground water. Water table level in this area
fluctuates between 35 m to 50 m.
Based on previous geoelectrical profiling [7], these
rock units are largely covered with deep (more than 200
m) Quaternary deposits at the city site. The Quarternary
deposits are both ancient (Q1) and recent (Q2) alluvial
terraces, as shown in Figure 2, with outcroppings on the
center and south parts of Mobarakeh and are mainly
loose clayey-silty and sandy layers with inter layers of
Figure 2. Geologic map of study area [10].
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJG
coarse grained deposits. The terraces in the studied area
s and central
cene period. The lengths of these two Quaternary faults
mic Hazard Ana-
are covered by relatively shallow soft silty clay (ML-CL)
and clean clay (CL), presented as Qft, which were mostly
deposited by floods during the Holocene period. The
thickness of alluvial deposits increases from southwest to
northeast of the city and the soil grains become finer to-
ward center of plain. The ground water level has a depth
of less than 25 m in north and northeast of the city, deep-
ens to ward the south and finally reaches a depth of a
bout 34 m, which constitutes a free aquifer in the Qua-
ternary deposits of the Mobarakeh alluvial. The construc-
tion of the waste water dams of steel complex have af-
fected the ground water level and its quality in the recent
years, deepening it from levels measured 40 years ago
4. Seismicity and Seismic Haz
Mobarakeh is situated between the Zagro
Iran seismotectonic units. Central Iran is not a linear
seismic zone. It is characterized by scattered seismic ac-
tivity with large magnitude earthquakes, long recurrence
periods and seismic gaps along several Quaternary faults.
Figure 3 shows the minor active faults around Moba-
rakeh. Several researchers published the characteristics
map of active faults around Mobarakeh [7]. The most
important faults outside the city are the Zagros and
Qom-Zefreh faults having strike slip mechanisms and
reverse components [6,9]. These faults are the most im-
portant active Quaternary faults in the area, having
caused surface displacements in the Holocene or Pleisto-
are about 500 and 290 km and their maximum estimated
moment magnitudes are 6.9 and 6.1, respectively. The
focal mechanisms of earthquakes are mostly reverse with
left lateral strike slip components. The shocks in central
Iran are generally shallow and are usually associated with
surface faulting. The only historical earthquake close to
Mobarakeh was the 1791 earthquake with a magnitude of
4.9 (Figure 3). A few instrumentally located events of
small magnitude have been observed around Mobarakeh.
The instrumental seismicity shows that at least 6 earth-
quakes have occurred with in a 100 km radius of Moba-
rakeh with magnitudes of less than 5.0.
This study presents a Probabilistic Seis
lysis (PSHA) based on the tectonic position and seis-
micity of the Mobarakeh region. The PSHA is based on
the Cornell approach. Area sources were identified on the
basis of geological and seismological studies (Figure 4).
For each source zone, seismicity parameters have been
estimated after omitting foreshocks and aftershocks from
the catalogue. Each source zone is characterized by an
earthquake probability distribution. A maximum or upper
bound earthquake was chosen for each source zone re-
presenting the maximum event to be considered. The seis-
micity parameters, including the Gutenberg-Richter pa-
rameter (β), maximum possible earthquake (Mmax) and
mean activity rate (λ) for each seismic zone used for the
PSHA are given in Table 1.The depth of the earth-
quakes was considered as 10 km based on the depth of
strong-to-large earthquakes in Iran.
Figure 3. Minor active faults around Mobarakeh ci ty [7].
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJG
Figure 4. Seismic events and risk zoning in study region.
Table 1. Parameters of seismic zones used for the PSHA.
Zone β M max λ (4.5)
Z1 1.64 7.9 0.54
Z2 1.60 7.8 0.52
Z3 1.40 7.7 0.058
Z4 1.22 7.4 0.059
Z5 1.58 6.8 0.07
Z6 1.68 6.5 0.06
Z7 1.48 7.1 0.12
Z8 2.23 7.6 0.59
A reliable assessment of seismic hazard in a region
tenuation. Several studies have been carried out to obtain
quires knowledge and understanding of both the seis-
micity and the attenuation of strong ground motion.
Some of the larger uncertainties in earthquake hazard
analysis are caused by uncertainties in seismic wave at-
attenuation relationships of peak ground accelerations for
different regions of the world. The use of different data
bases and published empirical attenuation relations for
peak ground acceleration brings a bout widely varying
results. Thus, it becomes difficult to select a relationship
that can be considered appropriate for a specific applica-
tion. Furthermore, the use of a particular relationship for
an area with different geological and tectonic features
may lead to results that differ significantly from the ac-
tual values. Therefore, three proper attenuation relation-
ships proposed by Boore et al. (1997), Zare (1999), and
Campbell and Bozorgnia (2003) have been considered
[2,7,8]. The attenuation relation given by Zare (1999) [2]
is based on the Iranian strong ground motion data. Those
introduced by Campbell and Bozorgnia (2003) and Boore
et al. (1997) are observed to be more similar to measured
peak ground acceleration in Iran [7-9]. All three attenua-
tion relationships were used and a logic tree scheme with
equal weight was applied. The effects of earthquakes of
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJG
different sizes, occurring at different locations in differ-
ent earthquake sources for different probabilities of oc-
currence were integrated into one curve that shows the
probability of exceeding different levels of ground mo-
tion at the site during a specified period of time. Figure 5
shows the distribution map of Peak Rock Acceleration
(PRA) in Mobarakeh for a return period of 475 years. As
can be seen, the PRA value varies from 0.31 to 0.39 g,
mostly due to data from the Zagros and Qom-Zefreh
5. Geotechnical Aspects of Mobarakeh
site in-
Although most available reports on geotechnical
vestigations Conducted by national and local go
ments and public corporations were collected but these
comprised only 10 boreholes from 7 stations having li-
mited depth (usually less than 60 m) and being unequally
distributed in the investigated area. To overcome the pro-
blem of insufficiency of data, complementary field in-
vestigations were designed and conducted. Numerous lo-
cations in the study area were selected as being topo-
logically, geologically and sedimentological representa-
tive sites for conducting the complementary field inves-
tigations. These included seismic refraction surveys at 19
stations, geo-electrical profiling at 17 stations and geologi-
cal surveys at 56 stations. Figure 6 presents the locations of
the existing geological and geotechnical data as well as
those of the complementary geophysical investigations.
Figure 5. Distribution map of PRA for a return period of 475 years.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJG
Figure 6. Geotechnical and complementary geophysical and geological stations.
For the purpose of t
rent, with dominant
depth. In this
he study, seismic bedrock has been rakeh that is significantly diffe
dfined as rock-like media with shear wave velocities of
over 700 - 800 m/s [4,11-13], which is suitable for ordi-
nary low to medium-rise buildings [3]. Distribution maps
of sub-surface sediments (Figure 7), depth of the seismic
bedrock (Figure 8), as well as some geotechnical sec-
tions (Figure 9) were compiled using the accumulated
data. The maps give clear perspectives on the variability
of soil conditions through out the study area. The ground
conditions of the study were thus categorized according
to soil type, layer thickness and depth of seismic bed
rock into three distinct zones (Figure 10):
Zone 1: south and some parts of southwest of Moba-
Clayey Layers (CL) to a considerable
zone, the average shear wave velocity is less than 300
m/s and the depth of seismic bedrock exceeds 90 m.
Zone 2: rock outcrops covering the southwest and
northeast mountainous regions and granular coarse-
grained alluviums (GP, GW) in central parts of study
area. In this zone, low to medium dense sub layers do
not exist to near zero, the average shear wave velocity
is over 700 - 800 m/s.
Zone 3: granular finer grained alluviums (SM, SW,
SP) which cover most parts of the central plain and
southwest and northeast edges. In this zone, low to
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJG
medium dense sub layers have no considerable thick-
nesses, the depth of seismic bedrock varies from 20 to
50 m and the average shear wave velocity varies from
350 to 500 m/s. Moving from east to west and from
north to south on the plain, the alluvium grain sizes
decrease and fine grained soil layers (SM, ML, SC)
become dominant (Figure 9). Although some parts of
the plain are covered by 2 - 10 m of alternating sur-
face clayey and non-clayey sub layers, most parts of
the plain consist solely of non-clayey sandy and silty
sub layers (SM, ML) that change to gravely/sandy
sub layers (GP, GW, SP, SW). To the northwest of
the plain, the thicknesses of low to medium dense sub
layers and the depth of seismic bed rock increase and
the average shear wave velocity decreases. Some
parts of the plain form a transition zone between Zone
3 and adjacent Zones 1 and 2. The soil conditions of
the zones were classified into several representative
geotechnical profiles by considering their combina-
tions of soil type, layer thickness, shear wave velocity
and depth of seismic bedrock (Figure 10). Figure 11
show samples of representative geological outcrops
and cross sections and Figure 12 show distribution
map of thickness of soil and sediments. Considering
information currently available on the underlying
structure of Mobarakeh, one possible explanation is
the existence of a deeper impedance contrast caused
by the Quaternary sediments underlying the surface
soil layers and resting at a depth of 100 - 150 m from
the ground surface on hard geological bed rock from
the cretaceous limestone formations having marked
differences in elastic properties. The results of deep
down-hole and geo-electrical profiles support this.
Another possible explanation is the effect of interac-
tion of the surrounding mountain regions with the 3D
basin structure.
Figure 7. Distribution map of shallow sub-sur face sediments.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJG
Figure 8. Distribution map of depth of seismic bed roc k.
6. Site Response Analysis
Non-linear site response analysis was carried out to
evaluate the site response of each of the representative
geotechnical profiles to the 475 year seismic induced bed
rock input motion. The SHAKE program [14] was used
to model the site as a one-dimensional system of hori-
zontal, homo-generous and isotropic soil layers consis-
tent with actual ground conditions in most of the city
where the ground surface and surface soil layers are ei-
ther virtually horizontal or slope gently. The well-known
shear modulus-strain and damping ratio-strain relations
proposed by [15] for sand and clays were used in the
analysis. Since there are no recorded bed rock strong
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJG
Figure 9. Geotechnical section W-E and N-S directions.
motion time histories for Mobara
selected from available
(Table 2) [16,17].
ch as the site condition (rocky keh city, thirty proper study area. Other factors su
Earthquake time histories were
national and international data bases
The selected ground motion records were recorded
during earthquakes with approximately the same magni-
tudes (6.0 to 7.5) and distances (7 to 60 km), as estimated
by deterministic approaches for controlling for earth-
quakes of well-defined seismic sources affecting the
sites) and style-of-faulting (reverse or strike slip) were
also considered [16,18]. All selected acceleration time
histories were normalized to the 475 year PRA estimated
by PSHA [18]. For each grid element, strong ground mo-
tion characteristics including natural site period, dynamic
site period, and PGA, were computed by subjecting their
representative geotechnical profiles to the normalized 475
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJG
Figure 10. Distribution map of site types.
year bed rock input motions. Once the average results
were obtained for each grid element, microzonation maps
of the city were created showing the distribution of site
amplification characteristics and
e study area.
ures 13 and 14 demonstrates that, as expected, the dy-
namic site periods are higher than te natural site periods
because of the shear modulus reduction caused by the
during 475 year strong earth-
quakes. Most parts of Mobarakeh have medium dynamic
PGA values through out soil’s non-linear behavior
th Figure 13 illustrates the distribution of the natural site
period (TN) through out the city. Most parts of the city
have medium natural site periods of between 0.4 and 0.8 s
nly the south and southeastern part covered by allu-
viums with low stiffness and considerable thickness, has
low natural site periods less than 0.4 s. Figure 14 pre-
sents the distribution of the dynamic (non-linear) site
periods (TD) through out the city. A comparison of Fig-
site periods of between 0.4 s and 0.8 s, except for some
parts in the south and southeast of the city, where the
thickness of medium dense sub soils and the depth of
seismic bed rock increase, which have low dynamic site
periods of less than 0.4 s. The west half of study area has
high dynamic site periods of more than 0.8 s.
Figure 15 shows the distribution of the 475 year return
period PGA through out the Mobarakeh city. The PGA
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJG
Figure 11. Samples of representative geological outcrops and cross sections.
values vary from 0.3 g to more than 0.6 g. In GIS media,
almost 35% of the grid elements exhibit PGA values of
0.45 to 0.5 g. Only 9% of them experi
f about 0.3 g and approximately 18% exhibit PGA va-
barakeh. Evaluations of the ground motion characteristic
are based on seismic risk assessment of the region for a
years, and on geophysical (geoelec-
trical and seismology) measurements and one-dimen-
a depth of
ence PGA values return period of 475
lues of more than 0.6 g. The dense granular alluviums in
east of Mobarakeh and the mountainous rocky sites in the
east of the city experience the lowest PGA values be-
cause either their amplification potential is negligible or
their PRA values are the lowest. The alluviums covering
the center part of the city and the west and northeast
borders of the plain, in particular, experience higher PGA
values because oft heir considerable amplification poten-
tial caused by low to medium dense soil layers.
7. Conclusion
This paper presents the most important features of soil
and quality and site effect microzonation studies of Mo-
sional non-linear site response analyses of the geotech-
nical profiles representing the geotechnical model of the
city. It was found that two active or potentially active
Quaternary faults with distinct evidence of surface dis-
placements with in Holocene or Pleistocene times lay
with in the city. This implies the necessity of considering
surface fault-rupture hazard as well as other near field
effects in planning future construction in these neighbor-
hoods. It may be attributed to the 3D basin effects or to
the presence of thick Quaternary sediments (with shear
wave velocity of more than 800 m/s) resting at
0 - 150 m from the ground surface on hard rock from
the cretaceous limestone formtions. In almost half of the a
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJG
Figure 12. Distribution of Sediment thickness tr ough out M obar a ke h.
Table 2. Specification of selected accelerograms for site response analysis.
No Earthquake Mechanism MagnitudeDistancePGA (g)
1 San Fernando-1971 Reverse 6.6 23.5 0.16
2 San Fernando-1971 Reverse 6.6 23.5 0.13
3 Vendic, Iran-1976 Strike slip 6.4 10 0.17
4 Vendic, Iran-1976 Strike slip 6.4 10 0.18
5 Naghan, Iran-1977 Reverse 6.1 7 0.87
6 Naghan, Iran-1977 Reverse 6.1 7 0.57
7 Tabas, Iran-1978 Reverse 7.4 45 0.11
8 Tabas, Iran-1978 Reverse 7.4 45 0.09
9 N.PalmSprings-1986 6.0 45.6 0.10
10 N. Palm Springs-1986 ue 6.0 45.6 0.13
e sli
e sli
Strike sli
28 Bam, Iran-2003 Strike sli
29 Baladeh, Iran-2004 Reverse
30 Baladeh, Iran-2004 Reverse
Reverse oblique
Reverse obliq
N. Palm Springs-1986 Reverse oblique 6.0 7.3 0.49
N. Palm Springs-1986 Reverse oblique 6.0 7.3 0.61
13 Northridge-1994 Rev
14 Northridge-1994 Rev
15 Northridge-1994 Rev
16 Northridge-1994 Rev
17 Northridge-1994 Rev
18 Northridge-1994 Rev
19 Duzce, Turkey-1999 Strik
20 Duzce, Turkey-1999 Strike
21 Duzce, Turkey-1999 Strike
22 Duzce, Turkey-1999 Strik
23 Duzce, Turkey-1999 Strike
24 Duzce, Turkey-1999 Strike
25 Changureh, Iran-2002 Rev
26 Changureh, Iran-2002 Rev
27 Bam, Iran-2003
6.7 26.8 0.17
6.7 26.8 0.22
6.7 36.1 0.23
6.7 36.1 0.13
6.7 8.2 0.30
6.7 8.2 0.43
p 7.1 8.2 0.51
p 7.1 8.2 0.97
p 7.1 8.5 0.13
p 7.1 8.5 0.15
p 7.1 27 0.05
p 7.1 27 0.05
6.0 28 0.43
6.0 28 0.44
p 6.5 56 0.16
p 6.5 56 0.1
6.3 20 0.29
6.3 20 0.16
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJG
Figure 13. Distribution of TN through out Mobarake h.
Fe 14. Distribution of TD throuarakehturn pe of 47s. igurgh out Mob a reriod5 year
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJG
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Figure 15. Dis of 475 years.
city, estimated 475 year PGA values are higher than the
maximum Design Base Acceleration (DBA) of 0.35 g
proposed by the Iranian code for regions with very high
levels of seismicity. This emphasizes once again the im-
portant role that site effect microzonation can play in
seismic risk mitigation of seismic-prone zones. The mi-
crozonation maps of the natural site period, dynamic site
period and PGA can be useful in land-use planning in
consideration of population density, building height and
building importance. It is obvious that more accurate
evaluations of ground motion characteristics in the future
require more geotechnical and geophysical data as well
as consideration of the 3D effects of the surrounding
mountain regions and of the sub-surface topography. It
should also be noted that the microzonation maps are not
intended to replace site-specific investigations for critical
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