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Seismic hazard assessment of United Arab Emirates and its surroundings

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Journal of Earthquake Engineering, Vol. 8, No. 6 (2004) 817–837


c Imperial College Press

SEISMIC HAZARD ASSESSMENT OF UNITED ARAB EMIRATES


AND ITS SURROUNDINGS

JAMAL A. ABDALLA∗ and AZM S. AL-HOMOUD†


Civil Engineering Department, American University of Sharjah,
P.O. Box 26666, Sharjah, UAE
∗jabdalla@ausharjah.edu

Received 24 February 2004


Accepted 17 May 2004

This paper presents the seismic hazard assessment and seismic zoning of the United Arab
Emirates (UAE) and its surroundings based on the probabilistic approach. The area
that has been studied lies between 50◦ E–60◦ E and 20◦ N–30◦ N and spans several Gulf
countries. First, the tectonics of the area and its surroundings is reviewed. An updated
catalogue, containing both historical and instrumental events is used. Seismic source
regions are modelled and relationships between earthquake magnitude and earthquake
frequency is established. A modified attenuation relation for Zagros region is adopted.
Seismic hazard assessment is then carried out for 20 km interval grid points. Seismic
hazard maps of the studied area based on probable Peak Ground Acceleration (PGA)
for 10% probability of exceedance for time-spans of 50, 100 and 200 years are shown.
A seismic zone map is also shown for a 475-year return period. Although the results of
the seismic hazard assessment indicated that UAE has moderate to low seismic hazard
levels, nevertheless high seismic activities in the northern part of UAE warrant attention.
The northern Emirates region is the most seismically active part of UAE. The PGA on
bedrock in this region ranges between 0.22 g for a return period of 475 years to 0.38 g
for a return period of 1900 years. This magnitude of PGA, together with amplification
from local site effect, can cause structural damage to key structures and lifeline systems.

Keywords: Earthquakes; tectonics, Gulf of Arabia; United Arab Emirates; seismic


hazard; peak ground acceleration; probabilistic method; design code.

1. Introduction
This study is intended to provide design engineers and planners with information
about earthquake prone areas and seismic hazard and zoning maps for United Arab
Emirates (UAE) and its surroundings. Such maps will help: (1) in selecting sites
for large and critical structures that should be designed with a balance between
cost, strength and serviceability; (2) in determining the design earthquake to be
taken into consideration when designing such critical structures; and (3) in plan-
ning for land use for urban and regional development of the area to evaluate the

∗ Author for correspondence. Member of ASCE and EERI.


† Member of ASCE and AEG.

817
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

818 J. A. Abdalla & A. S. Al-Homoud

rapidly increasing number of high rise buildings, bridges and offshore and onshore
oil installation [Abdalla et al., 2001, Al-Homoud et al., 1994].
The hazard zoning maps developed in this study represent statistical and av-
erage behaviour of the regions considered, which are based mainly on historical
and instrumental data available on seismic events on the studied regions. Since no
comprehensive geologic and tectonic studies were made for all regions to arrive to
such results, caution must be observed in adopting the results. However, they are
a good starting point for further studies.
In general, the need for seismic hazard zonation and seismic risk assessment for
regions of high and moderate seismic activities has become an important factor. The
design and construction of structures in such regions require the knowledge of the
peak ground acceleration, i.e. future probable seismic loading that the structure
is likely to be exposed to during its lifetime. Such information is the product of
seismic hazard analysis of a region.

2. Survey of Seismic Hazard Methods


There are two prevalent methods for seismic hazard analysis; the deterministic
approach and the probabilistic approach.

2.1. Deterministic approach


The deterministic approach is simple and it does not account for uncertainty and
probability of the occurrence of an earthquake. The deterministic approach is used
to determine the maximum credible earthquake motion at a given site and it is
usually used when the tectonic features of the region are well defined and the
seismic activity is relatively high. The steps of the deterministic approach are as
follows [Reiter, 1990; Abdalla et al., 1996]:
(i) Identify the seismic source zones near the intended site such as faults.
(ii) Determine the distance of each seismic source from the intended site.
(iii) For each seismic source, determine the earthquake magnitude, fault length and
recurrence interval.
(iv) Establish response parameters such ground acceleration for each source as
a function of magnitude, epicentral distance, and soil characteristics using
average of several ground motion attenuation relations.
(v) Use the largest value from all sources computed from (iv) above.

2.2. Probabilistic approach


Seismic hazard is defined as the expected occurrence of a future adverse earthquake
that has implication of future uncertainty and therefore theory of probability is
used to predict and forecast it [Shah et al., 1976]. The probabilistic seismic hazard
approach quantifies the uncertainty and take into consideration the probability of
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

Seismic Hazard Assessment of UAE 819

earthquake occurrence. It follows similar steps to that of the deterministic approach,


however, the uncertainty may be quantified by a probability distribution at each
step for earthquake magnitude, earthquake location and other response parameters.
This approach is not completely followed in this study.
The probabilistic approach, used in this investigation, takes into account the
uncertainties in the level of magnitude of earthquake, its hypocentral location, its
recurrence relation and its attenuation relation. This gives more realistic values for
earthquake parameters as compared to the deterministic approach.
The steps for seismic hazard assessment can be summarised as follows: [Shah
and Dong, 1984; EERI, 1989; Reiter, 1990; McGuire, 1993, McGuire, 1995] (1) Mod-
elling of seismic source regions; (2) Evaluation of recurrence relation, i.e. frequency-
magnitude relation; (3) Evaluation of attenuation laws for intensity or peak ground
acceleration; (4) Evaluation of activity rate for earthquake-probability of occur-
rence; (5) Evaluation of basic parameters such as lower and upper bound for earth-
quake magnitude and distribution of seismic events and (6) Evaluation of local
site effects such as soil type, geotechnical characteristics of sediments, topographic
effects, etc.
Steps (1)–(5) represent the seismic hazard assessment for an ideal “bedrock”
condition while the inclusion of Step (6) represent the seismic hazard assessment
for a specific “site.” In this study the seismic hazard assessment is done assuming
ideal bedrock. Therefore, only Steps (1)–(5) will be investigated in the following
sections. A review of the literature showed that probabilistic seismic hazard zoning
studies were done for different Middle Eastern countries, these are:

(i) Jordan and surrounding countries: Al-Homoud et al. [1994], Al-Homoud and
Husein [1995], Husein et al. [1995a] and Al-Homoud and Amrat [1998].
(ii) Lebanon: Harajli et al. [1995].
(iii) Sudan and its vicinity: Abdalla et al. [1997] and Abdalla et al. [2001].
(iv) Saudi Arabia: Al-Haddad et al. [1994].
(v) Iran: Tavakoli and Ghafory-Ashtiany [1999].
(vi) Syria: Husein et al. [1995b].

3. Regional Seismic Hazard Studies


There are very few published seismic hazard studies for the Arabian Peninsula
and none of the countries in this region is included in the global review of hazard
assessments published by IASPEI and edited by McGuire [McGuire, 1993]. The
northeastern portion of the Arabian Peninsula, including Bahrain, Kuwait, northern
Oman and United Arab Emirates, are few areas that are not covered by the Global
Seismic Hazard Assessment Programme [GSHAP, 1998; Giardini, 1999]. Grunthal
et al. [1999] compiled a seismic hazard map for Europe, Africa and Middle East from
individual area studies in these regions that were carried out as part of GSHAP.
The region of UAE is not covered by individual studies and the hazard was mapped
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

820 J. A. Abdalla & A. S. Al-Homoud

by simulating the attenuated effect of the seismic hazard activity in the Zagros
province of Iran [Grunthal et al., 1999]. This extrapolation resulted in hazard levels
that reach almost 0.5 g at the northern most part of the UAE and that are greater
than 0.2 g in most of the country. These mapped values can be confidently rejected
as having a very weak scientific basis and being grossly over-conservative.
A more reliable study is the seismic hazard assessment for the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia carried out by Al-Haddad et al. [1994]. Their study actually considers
seismic hazard throughout the Arabian Peninsula. The seismic source zones defined
by Al-Haddad et al. [1994] that lie within Saudi Arabia are mainly on the western
side and along the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. Recently, Abdalla et al. [2004]
started the effort to develop seismic hazard for the eastern Arabian region. Prior to
that there was no seismic source zones defined in eastern Saudi Arabia or in Oman
and the UAE, all of which are considered to be devoid of appreciable earthquake
activity. The only source of earthquake activity identified by Al-Haddad et al. [1994]
that could significantly affect hazard levels in the UAE is their Source Zone 11 in
southern Iran, for which a maximum magnitude of 7.5 is assigned. The shortest
distance between the boundaries of this source zone and Dubai for example is of
the order of 125 km.
Al-Haddad et al. [1994] produced a map of iso-accelerations with a 10% proba-
bility of exceedance in 50 years, which is equivalent to a return period of 475 years.
This map shows that the only areas where significant seismic hazard is identified
are a small area in north central Saudi Arabia, the coastal areas along the Red Sea
and the Iranian coast of the Arabian Gulf. The hazard level in Dubai and Sharjah,
according to this study, is significantly below 0.05 g. The attenuation relationship
used by Al-Haddad et al. [1994] is the one developed for Western USA. Such at-
tenuation relationship may not be appropriate for the region under consideration.
However, there is always room for improvement to the seismic hazard map when
more and reliable data becomes available and more elaborate study takes place.
It can also be appreciated that Al-Haddad et al. [1994] did not attempt to define
any source zones in the northeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, since there
is no clearly defined tectonic structure in that area and no significant earthquake
activity. It would be very difficult to define a seismic source to capture the very
limited earthquake in that area.
Reference is made here also to the most recent seismic hazard study for Iran
[Tavakoli and Gafory-Ashtiany, 1999; GSHAP, 1998]. It is clear from this study that
the largest earthquakes and most intense activity in the Zagros are concentrated
along or close to the line of the main thrust fault. The activity becomes more diffuse
to the southwest through the Zagros folded belt.

4. Geology, Tectonics and Seismicity of United Arab Emirates


Geographically, UAE is bordered in the north by the Arabian/Persian Gulf, to the
east by the Gulf of Oman and Sultanate of Oman, to the south by Saudi Arabia
and Sultanate of Oman and to the west by Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

Seismic Hazard Assessment of UAE 821

The geologic feature of UAE follows that of the Arabian Platform. The rocks in
the Arabian Platform accumulated on stable marine-to-fluviatile shelf. Uplift and
collapse of arches and basins, movements on fault blocks, and migration of shoreline
back and forward across this shelf resulted in the interactions and migrations of
sandstones, siltstones, carbonates and salt basin that characterize the Phanerozoic
of this region [SGS, 2002; Bou-Rabee and VanMarche, 2001].
Tectonically, UAE is situated in the southeastern part of the Arabian plate. The
Arabian plate is one of the youngest plates that make up the surface of the earth.
The plate comprises of a crystalline basement of Precambrian continental crust
about 40–50 km thick, an overlaying basement of sequence of younger Phanerozoic
sedimentary rocks that range in thickness from zero to 10 km, in addition to basalt
and oceanic basin [SGS, 2002]. The separation and splitting of the Arabian Plate
from the African Plate along the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden axes followed by the
drift of the Arabian Plate to the north and northeast, lead ultimately to a collision
with the Eurasian plate that resulted in the formation of the Zagros fold-belt and
northwestern
thrust-belt.Indian
ZagrosOcean [Berberian
fold belt 81, Adams
is the major andearthquakes
source of Barazangi in
84,the
Nowroozi 87]. The
eastern border
western boundary of the Arabian
of the Arabian plate [SGS, 2002]. Plate is the Red Sea Rift and Sheba Ridge systems. The
seismicity
As shown in Fig. 1, there are several major fault systems that surround the 1,
of few of these directly affects the seismicity of UAE. As indicate in Figure
Zagros Fold and Thrust Belt and Makran Subduction Zone are the only two fault systems that
Arabian Plate. The northwest boundary of the Arabian Plate is the left-lateral
have direct effect on the seismicity of UAE. An overview of the characteristics, geometry,
tectonic positions and seismic activity of these two fault systems will be presented.

Eurasian
Turkish Plate
Plate
Zagros
Fold Belt
Dead Sea
Fault
Makran
Subduction

Arabian
African Plate
Plate
Owen Fracture Zone
Red Sea
Fault

Indian
Plate

Fig. 1. Seismotectonics of UAE and its vicinity.

4.1 Zagros fold and thrust belt


The Zagros fold and thrust belt forms the boundary between the Arabian and Eurasian
plates. Zagros belt is one of the most active fault zones in the world and extend a distance of
over 1500 km in NW-SE direction along the northeastern part of Iraq and the western part of
Iran which extends passing from Turkey in the north to Oman in the south [Barazangi 1983].
The Zagros belt zone is about 200 km wide and most seismic activities take place in the
coastal part of the Arabian Plate that underlies the Zagros Folded Belt. This highly active
seismic region forms the boundary between the Arabian and Eurasian plates. The Arabian
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

822 J. A. Abdalla & A. S. Al-Homoud

Dead Sea Fault Zone. The southeast boundary of the Arabian Plate is the Owen
Fracture Zone (OFZ) in the northwestern Indian Ocean [Berberian, 1981; Adams
and Barazangi, 1984; Nowroozi, 1987]. The western boundary of the Arabian Plate
is the Red Sea Rift and Sheba Ridge systems. The seismicity of few of these directly
affects the seismicity of UAE. As indicate in Fig. 1, Zagros Fold and Thrust Belt
and Makran Subduction Zone are the only two fault systems that have direct effect
on the seismicity of UAE. An overview of the characteristics, geometry, tectonic
positions and seismic activity of these two fault systems will be presented.

4.1. Zagros fold and thrust belt


The Zagros fold and thrust belt forms the boundary between the Arabian and
Eurasian plates. The Zagros belt is one of the most active fault zones in the world
and extend a distance of over 1500 km in the NW-SE direction along the northeast-
ern part of Iraq and the western part of Iran which extends passing from Turkey
in the north to Oman in the south [Barazangi 1983]. The Zagros belt zone is about
200 km wide and most seismic activities take place in the coastal part of the Ara-
bian Plate that underlies the Zagros Folded Belt. This highly active seismic region
forms the boundary between the Arabian and Eurasian plates. The Arabian Plate
is a small plate split from the African Plate by rifting along the Red Sea. As it
collides with the massive Eurasian Plate it causes uplift of the Zagros Mountains
and results in numerous damaging earthquakes [USGS, 2002].
The Zagros fold and thrust belt is highly active seismic region. Shoja-Taheri
and Niazi [1981] identified the Zagros as the second most seismically active region
in Iran, after the Hindu Kush region. However, they also identified large b-values
for the recurrence relationship in the Zagros, which implies that far more small and
moderate magnitude earthquakes occur than large magnitude events. Noorbakhsh
et al. [1997] also confirmed that the Zagros is “characterised by the occurrence of
mainly small-and mid-sized earthquakes”.

4.2. Makran subduction


The Makran subduction is the region where the Gulf of Oman continues to subduct
under the southern region of the Eurasian plate. It differs from other subducting
segment of the Arabian Plate in that it is an oceanic crust rather than continental
crust that is being subducted beneath Eurasian Plate. This oceanic crust extends
eastward to Owen Fracture Zone (OFZ) along the Indian Plate boundary.
In southern Iran, the oceanic crust descends below the continental crust through
the Makran subduction trench. This is a region that can produce great earthquakes,
the most recent example being the Makran earthquake of 27 November 1945, which
has been assigned a magnitude of Ms 8.1. It is reported that the earthquake, whose
epicentrr was about 750 km from Dubai, was felt as a slight shock in Muscat
[Ambraseys and Melville, 1982].
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

Seismic Hazard Assessment of UAE 823

Byrne et al. [1992] identify a very distinct difference between the western and
eastern parts of the Makran, with no evidence for large earthquakes in the western
portion during the instrumental or historical periods. The one possible exception
to this is an event reported by Ambraseys and Melville [1982] on 18 February
1483, for which they estimated a magnitude of Ms 7.7. However, Ambraseys and
Melville [1982] classify the source parameters of this earthquake as corresponding
to those with “a very approximate location of events that were probably large
but for which we have insufficient details”. Therefore the report of the 1483 event
does not seriously undermine the argument of Byrne et al. [1992] for much lower
activity in the western Makran. Since the eastern Makran, where great earthquakes
can happen, is so remote from the UAE, this is very unlikely to be the source of
appreciable seismic hazard.

30.00

29.00

28.00

27.00

Bahrain Iran
26.00

Arabian/Persian Gulf
Qatar
25.00
Gulf of Oman

24.00

United Arab Emirates


23.00

22.00 Sultanate of Oman


Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

2 1 .0 0

2 0 .0 0
5 0 .0 0 5 1 .0 0 5 2 .0 0 5 3 .0 0 5 4 .0 0 5 5 .0 0 5 6 .0 0 5 7 .0 0 5 8 .0 0 5 9 .0 0 6 0 .0 0

Fig. 2. Seismicity of UAE and its surroundings for 6.7 = M = 4.0 (instrumental period 1964–
2002) and M = 5 (historical period 1008–1964).
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

824 J. A. Abdalla & A. S. Al-Homoud

5. Earthquake Catalogue Clean Up and Completeness


The region of the Persian Gulf and neighbouring areas to the east can be charac-
terised as a zone of tectonic collision with the Arabian and Indian Plates moving
northwards against the Eurasian plate. The most significant earthquakes in this
region are connected with this tectonic conversion, as can be appreciated from the
map shown in Fig. 2.
Several catalogues for the regions and other references were used by Farahbod
and Arkhani [2002] to develop a clean and corrected catalogue with around 5294
events with magnitude range from 3.1 to 7.7 and covers a larger area than the stud-
ied region. The catalogues and references used for compiling the catalogue of the
International Institute for Earthquake Engineering and Seismology [IIEES, 2002;
Farahbod et al., 2002] are numerous including the National Earthquake Information
Center [NEIC, 2002], International Seismological Center [ISC, 2002], Ambraseys
and Melville [1982], Nowroozi [1987], Nabavi [1978], National Oceanic and Atmo-
spheric Administration [NOAA, 2002], among many others. The moment magnitude
is used in the catalogue. Equation (1) is used to covert Mb and Ms to Mw . The
catalogue period used is from year 400 to 2002, however, for the studied region the
period used is from year 1008 to 2002. Figure 2 shows the epicentres of historical
and instrumental earthquakes of the cleaned, updated and unified catalogue.
Mw = (−0.84 ± 0.03)M + (0.96 ± 0.16) , (1)
where:
M = Mb M < 6.0 ,
M = Ms M ≥ 6.0 .
It can be appreciated that nearly all of the events are associated with the Zagros
belt and there are only very few, moderate magnitude events elsewhere. The tectonic
association of these smaller events is not clearly defined.

6. Seismic Hazard Assessment


6.1. Modelling of seismic source regions in UAE and surroundings
There are several types of seismic source modelling. Mainly, point source, and line
or plane source and area source. In this investigation area source region model is
adopted and assumed to have homogenous seismicity.
There is no solid established procedure for specifying the boundaries of the seis-
mic source regions. Ideally, the delineation of the boundaries of a seismic source
region should be done based on detailed geological studies of the area together with
reliable and comprehensive historical and instrumental data of seismic events to sub-
stantiate the findings [Karnik and Algermissen, 1977]. Unfortunately, such studies
and data are not currently available for regions of the UAE and its surroundings.
Hence, expert opinion and judgment, based on available tectonic characteristics of
the area and spatial distribution of seismic activities, are used to delineate UAE
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

Seismic Hazard Assessment of UAE 825

3 0 .0 0

2 9 .0 0

Region II Region I Region V


2 8 .0 0

2 7 .0 0 Region IV
Bahrain
2 6 .0 0
Region III Iran
North Latitude

2 5 .0 0
Qatar
Arabian/Persian Gulf Region VI
Region VII
2 4 .0 0 Gulf of Oman

United Arab Emirates


2 3 .0 0

2 2 .0 0
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Sultanate of Oman

2 1 .0 0

2 0 .0 0
5 0 .0 0 5 1 .0 0 5 2 .0 0 5 3 .0 0 5 4 .00 0 55.00 5 6 .0 0 5 7 .0 0 5 8 .0 0 5 9 .0 0 6 0 .0 0
East Longitude

Fig. 3. Seismic source regions of UAE and its surroundings.

and most of its surroundings into seven seismic source regions, as shown in Fig. 3.
A background seismicity, with b = 0.8, Mmin = 4 and Mmax = 5, is used to model
the random occurrence of small and moderate size events for areas outside these
seismic source regions [EERI, 1989].
As indicated in Table 1, the seismic source regions are:

(1) Source Region I: Main Zagros Thrust Region.


(2) Source Region II: North East Arabian Gulf Region.
(3) Source Region III: Northern Emirates Region.
(4) Source Region IV: Lut Region.
(5) Source Region V: Central Iran Region.
(6) Source Region VI: Makran Region.
(7) Source Region VII: South East Arabian Gulf Region.

6.2. Recurrence relations


The recurrence relation is the relationship between the cumulative frequency of
occurrence of earthquake and its magnitude. Gutenberg and Richter had devised
this logarithmic relationship (G–R formula) for seismic hazard analysis [Gutenberg
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

826 J. A. Abdalla & A. S. Al-Homoud

Table 1. Seismic source regions of UAE and its vicinity.

Source Source Name Source Boundaries Coordinates Maximum


Region (Latitude, Longitude) Instrumental
No. Earthquake
I Main Zagros Thrust Region (54.2E, 26.3N), (56.5E, 26.8N) 6.5
(50.0E, 30.0N), (52.2E, 30.0N)
II North East Arabian Gulf Region (53.0E, 26.0N), (54.2E, 26.3N) 5.5
(50.0E, 28.2N), (50.0E, 30.0N)
III Northern Emirates Region (54.7E, 24.7N), (57.3E, 26.2N) 5.5
(53.0E, 26.0N), (56.5E, 26.8N)
IV Lut Region (57.3E, 26.2N), (60.0E, 26.2N) 6.3
(54.8E, 28.0N), (60.0E, 28.0N)
V Central Iran Region (54.8E, 28.0N), (60.0E, 28.0N) 6.7
(52.2E, 30.0N), (60.0E, 30.0N)
VI Makran Region (57.0E, 24.5N), (60.0E, 24.5N) 6.2
(57.3E, 26.2N), (60.0E, 26.2N)
VII South East Arabian Gulf Region (56.0E, 24.0N), (57.0E, 24.5N) 7.0
(54.7E, 24.7N), (57.3E, 26.2N)

and Richter, 1954] and is given by:

log N = a − bM , (2)

where, N is the number of earthquakes having magnitude greater than, or equal


to, M , M is the earthquake magnitude, a and b are constants which depend on the
source area and they have physical meaning. The a-value indicates the number of
earthquakes above magnitude zero and it depends on the number of events, size of
the source region and the number of years. The b-value defines the relative number
of small magnitude to large magnitude earthquakes.
The G–R formula implies an exponential distribution of magnitude with un-
limited maximum magnitude. To set integration bounds the G–R formula must be
truncated at both ends by Mmin and Mmax -the minimum and the maximum possi-
ble magnitudes in a given volume. Mmax is of great importance and its estimation
is one of the principal task in seismic zoning [Karnik and Algermissen, 1977].
In this investigation a- and b-values have been calculated for each source region
based on events extracted from the catalogue. Table 2 shows the computed a- and
b-values for each region. The a- and the b-value are parameters that characterise the
source activity. Calculated b-values for regions III, VI and VII were too small due
to insufficient data. Therefore the b-values for these regions have been replaced with
assumed values of 0.8. No significant difference in the final seismic hazard result
was observed. The quality of estimate of the computed a-values depends on the
minimum and maximum earthquakes (i.e. Mmin and Mmax ). A value of Mmin = 4.0
was used in the study since this value was considered the threshold value that
produces noticeable damage in the type of structures in the region. Mmax is given
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

Seismic Hazard Assessment of UAE 827

Table 2. Seismic hazard parameters for the eight regions.

Source Total No. Minimum Maximum b-Values a-Values


No. of Events (N ) Magnitude (Mw ) Magnitude (Mw )
I 866 4.0 7.0 1.22 10.17
II 106 4.0 6.0 0.94 6.99
III 30 4.0 6.0 0.80 5.22
IV 369 4.0 6.8 1.11 9.01
V 140 4.0 7.2 0.89 7.34
VI 6 4.0 6.7 0.80 2.74
VII 29 4.0 7.5 0.80 4.88

by the following formula:


Mmax = Mmax −observed + 0.5 . (3)
The a- and b-values given in Table 2 are considered reasonable for the purpose
of this study since they are generally within the range reported for Zagros Region
[Zare, 2002]. A uniform hypocentral depth of 25 km was assumed for all source
regions of this study.

6.3. Attenuation relations


Attenuation relationship is one of the important elements in seismic hazard assess-
ment. The attenuation relationship defines the reduction in peak ground accelera-
tion (PGA) or intensity (I) with distance from the epicenter (R) for an earthquake
of given magnitude (M). The attenuation relationship is affected by several factors
[Esteva, 1974; Boore and Joyner, 1982; Campbell, 1985]. These factors include (1)
magnitude of earthquake; (2) distance of site considered from earthquake hypocen-
tre; (3) type of fault rupture mechanism; (4) damping of transmitting media; and
(5) soil characteristics of the site. Several researchers have developed several at-
tenuation relationships as summarised by Campbell, 1985. As more strong motion
data became available newer attenuation relationships have been developed.
A possible set of equations is that presented by Ambraseys et al. [1996], which
are based on regression analysis on strong-motion records from Europe and adja-
cent areas including the Middle East, particularly Iran. These equations predict
the ordinates of absolute acceleration response for periods up to 2.0 seconds as a
function of surface wave magnitude, distance from the surface projection of the
fault rupture and the site classification.
Another set of equations that could be adopted is that from Boore et al. [1993],
which uses the same model as the European equations but is based on moment
magnitude and is obtained from regressions on western North America data.
An attenuation relation that resulted from calibration and adjustment of con-
stants to reflect the region characteristics such as transmission path, soil type,
source, etc., developed by IIEES [Zare, 2002] is used in the current study. The gen-
eral form of the attenuation equation, which is motivated by that of Joyner and
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

828 J. A. Abdalla & A. S. Al-Homoud

Boore [Joyner, 1981], is in the following form:


log A = C1 Mw + C2 R − C3 log R + ci Si + (σ)P , i = 1, 2, 3, 4 , (4)
where A is the peak ground acceleration (PGA cm/sec2 ), is the earthquake mag-
nitude (moment), R is the hypocentral distance measured in (km), C1 , C2 and C3
are constants. Si is the site condition, ci is the site class (c1 for rock, c2 for hard
alluvium, c3 for soft alluvium and c4 for soft soil), σ is the standard deviation and
P is a constant. P = 0 (for average PGA), P = 1 (for average GPA plus standard
deviation).
For Zagros horizontal component, the following values have been calculated:
C1 = 0.399, C2 = −0.0019, C3 = 1.0 (for homogeneous space), s = 0.329, c1 =
−1.047 (site class for bedrock).
However, recording of strong motion shaking (i.e. accelerations) at different lo-
cations in the UAE as a result of major earthquakes occurring along Zagros Faulting
System (e.g. southwest Iran), will enable the development of an accurate attenu-
ation relation that take into consideration attenuation of earthquake waves across
the Arabian Gulf rather than attenuation relation developed based on recordings
within the Iranian continent (e.g. the attenuation relation noted above). A similar
study was conducted by Al-Homoud and Amrat [1998].

7. Probabilistic Theory of Seismic Hazard


Over the years several models for probability of occurrence or earthquake genera-
tion has been developed [Kiremidjian and Anagnos, 1983]. These models include:
the time-independent Poisson Model [Cornell, 1968; Cornell and Merz, 1975], the
time-dependent Markov Model (Chiang et al., 1984). There are also several other
models, such as time-predictable and slip-predictable models, semi-Markov and
non-homogenous Poisson [Shah and Dong, 1984]. Poisson process assumes that
earthquakes are independent events that occur randomly in time and have been
adopted in this study for its popularity, ease of use and lack of sufficient data for
other models. The Poisson Model is given by:
e−υt (υt)n
Pn (t) = , n = 0, 1, 2, . . . , (5)
n!
where, Pn (t) is the probability of having n events in time period t, n is the number
of events, υ is the mean rate of occurrence per unit time.
The seismic hazard can be expressed in terms of total probability theorem as:
XN Z Z
υ[A > a] = Ni (Mmin ) P [A > a|M, R]fM (M )fR (R) · dM · dR , (6)
i=1 M R

where:
Ni = Activity rate for source i, and N is the number of source regions
υ[A > a] = Rate that certain ground acceleration “a” is exceeded
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

Seismic Hazard Assessment of UAE 829

A = The event whose probability is sought


M = Local magnitude (independent random variable)
R = Hypocentral distance of the source (independent random
variable)
fM (M ) = Probability density functions of magnitude
fR (R) = Probability density functions of the hypocentral distance
P [A > a|M,R ] = Conditional probability of having specific value of ground accel-
eration “a” exceeded given “M ” and “R”.

The conditional probability, i.e. P [A > a|M,R ], of ground acceleration “A” ex-
ceeding value “a” at a site given “M ” and “R” can be evaluated using the log
normal distribution and the attenuation relation as follows [Abdalla et al., 2001;
Puttonen and Varpasuo, 1981]:
 
log a − C1 − C2 M − C3 log(R + C4 )
P [A > a|M, R] = 1 − Φ , (7)
σI
where Φ is the cumulative of the Standardized Log Normal Distribution, σI is
the standard deviation of acceleration. More details of the derivation are shown in
Abdalla et al. [2001].
The probability density function of magnitude fM (M ) can be evaluated from
G–R recurrence relation for any local magnitude M . The probability density func-
tions of the hypocentral distance, fR (R), depends on the spatial relationship be-
tween the earthquake source and the site to be investigated. Since the distance
density function can be solved only in specific cases, a uniformly distributed seis-
micity is assumed and Eq. (6) can now be integrated over the entire source region.

8. Results and Discussions


Probabilistic seismic hazard analysis for seven seismic source regions was performed
using the computer code EQRISK [McGuire, 1976]. The EQRISK program has
been supplemented by a pre-processing and a post-processing program for data
manipulation. The pre-processing program sorts the data for each earthquake source
and compute the Richter-Gutenburg parameters (i.e. a and b values). The post-
processing program prepares the data for plotting the contours of PGA for different
time spans.
Input parameters for EQRISK program have been prepared and they consist of
geometry of source regions, annual probability of exceedance, Richter parameters,
rate of occurrence, and coordinates of location where the seismic hazard is required.
The study area was subdivided into a grid of approximately 25 × 25 km, an input
file is prepared consisting of the seismic parameters mentioned above and seismic
hazard analysis is carried out for the entire region using EQRISK program. The
output of the program was the mean peak ground acceleration in cm/sec2 with a
10% probability of being exceeded during time spans of 50, 100 and 200 years.
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

830 J. A. Abdalla & A. S. Al-Homoud

Figures 4 through 6 shows the result of the seismic hazard analysis of the studied
area. Table 3 gives a summary of the maximum PGA on bedrock for the seven
regions for different time spans. It is observed from Table 3 that the maximum PGA
on bedrock occurs in the Zagros region where the PGA reached almost 500 cm/sec 2
(0.51 g) for 200 years time span. Central Iran, Lut and North Eastern Arabian
Gulf Regions also show, respectively, high PGA. Northern Emirates, Makran and
Southeast Arabian Region regions shows moderate to low PGA.

3 0 .0 0

2 9 .0 0

2 8 .0 0

2 7 .0 0 Iran

Bahrain
2 6 .0 0
North Latitude

Arabian/Persian Gulf
Qatar
2 5 .0 0
Gulf of Oman
2 4 .0 0

2 3 .0 0 United Arab Emirates

2 2 .0 0

2 1 .0 0 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Sultanate of Oman

2 0 .0 0
5 0 .0 0 5 1 .0 0 5 2 .0 0 5 3 .0 0 5 4 .0 0 5 5 .0 0 5 6 .0 0 5 7 .0 0 5 8 .0 0 5 9 .0 0 6 0 .0 0
East Longitude

Fig. 4. PGA (cm/sec2 ) with a 10% probability of exceedance in a 50 years time span.

Table 3. Summary of PGA (in g) with a 10% probability of being exceeded in


the time span.

Regions Source Name 50 Years 100 Years 200 Years


I Main Zagros Thrust Region 0.30 0.40 0.51
II North East Arabian Gulf Region 0.24 0.32 0.41
III Northern Emirates Region 0.22 0.30 0.38
IV Lut Region 0.26 0.34 0.45
V Central Iran Region 0.25 0.33 0.43
VI Makran Region 0.19 0.26 0.34
VII South East Arabian Gulf Region 0.16 0.22 0.30
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

Seismic Hazard Assessment of UAE 831

3 0 .0 0

2 9 .0 0

2 8 .0 0

2 7 .0 0 Iran

Bahrain
2 6 .0 0
North Latitude

Arabian/Persian Gulf
Qatar
2 5 .0 0
Gulf of Oman
2 4 .0 0

2 3 .0 0 United Arab Emirates

2 2 .0 0

2 1 .0 0 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Sultanate of Oman

2 0 .0 0
5 0 .0 0 5 1 .0 0 5 2 .0 0 5 3 .0 0 5 4 .0 0 5 5 .0 0 5 6 .0 0 5 7 .0 0 5 8 .0 0 5 9 .0 0 6 0 .0 0
East Longitude

Fig. 5. PGA (cm/sec2 ) with a 10% probability of exceedance in a 100 years time span.

8.1. Seismic zoning of UAE and its surroundings


The seismic hazard analysis carried out in this investigation assumed an ideal
bedrock case, and therefore no influence of local soil conditions is taken into consid-
eration. The contour lines obtained can be used to divide UAE and its surrounding
area into macro-seismic zones. The zones specify regions of anticipated PGA from
zero to three as commonly used in most building codes including the UBC (ICBO,
1997). The seismic zone map is generated based on Peak Ground Acceleration
(PGA) with 10% probability of exceedance in a 50 year time period, which corre-
sponds to a 475 year return period. Figure 7 shows the proposed seismic zone map
for UAE and its surroundings based on the probabilistic seismic hazard assess-
ment presented in this investigation. Such zoning map is necessary for earthquake
resistant design, urban and regional planning and land use purposes.
It is observed that large parts of UAE, specifically southern UAE, lie within
Zone Zero where the PGA on bedrock in 50 year time period (corresponds to 475
years return period) does not exceed 50, i.e. 0.05 g. Greater Abu Dhabi area lies
within Zone 1, where the PGA on bedrock is between 0.05 g and 0.10 g, i.e. with
an average of 0.075 g. Zone 2A, where the PGA on bedrock is between 0.10 g and
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

832 J. A. Abdalla & A. S. Al-Homoud

3 0 .0 0

2 9 .0 0

2 8 .0 0

2 7 .0 0 Iran

Bahrain
2 6 .0 0
North Latitude

Arabian/Persian Gulf
Qatar
2 5 .0 0
Gulf of Oman
2 4 .0 0

2 3 .0 0
United Arab Emirates

2 2 .0 0

2 1 .0 0 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Sultanate of


Oman

2 0 .0 0
5 0 .0 0 5 1 .0 0 5 2 .0 0 5 3 .0 0 5 4 .0 0 5 5 .0 0 5 6 .0 0 5 7 .0 0 5 8 .0 0 5 9 .0 0 6 0 .0 0
East Longitude

Fig. 6. PGA (cm/sec2 ) with a 10% probability of exceedance in a 200 year time span.

0.20 g, i.e. with an average of 0.15 g, covers Greater Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman
area where the highest PGA in Fujaira area approaches 0.2 g. No part of UAE lie
within Zone 2B or Zone 3. The delineation of zones for UAE and its surounding
are clearly marked in Fig. 7.

8.2. Seismic zonation for design purposes


UBC97 classifies locations into one of six seismic hazard zones, for which Zone
Factors Z are assigned. No value of Z is given for Zone 0 because no seismic design
is required for structures in Zone 0. For sites within Zone 4, additional factors are
applied in the construction of the response spectrum if the site is located within
15 km of an active fault capable of producing earthquakes of magnitude 6.5 or
greater. The zone factors Z can be interpreted as being values of effective peak
acceleration, in bedrock.
UBC97 defines the value of Z for USA through zonation maps and for locations
outside the USA values are listed for cities throughout the world in an Appendix.
UBC97 defines the seismic hazard level in Dubai and in Abu Dhabi as Zone 0,
implying that seismic design is not required.
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

Seismic Hazard Assessment of UAE 833

3 0 .0 0

2 9 .0 0

2 8 .0 0 Zone 3
Zone 2B
2 7 .0 0

Bahrain
2 6 .0 0 Zone 2A Iran
North Latitude

Arabian/Persian Gulf
Qatar
2 5 .0 0
Zone
Gulf of Oman
2 4 .0 0
United Arab Emirates
2 3 .0 0

Zone 0
2 2 .0 0

2 1 .0 0 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Sultanate of


Oman

2 0 .0 0
5 0 .0 0 5 1 .0 0 5 2 .0 0 5 3 .0 0 5 4 .0 0 5 5 .0 0 5 6 .0 0 5 7 .0 0 5 8 .0 0 5 9 .0 0 6 0 .0 0
East Longitude

Fig. 7. Seismic zoning map of UAE and its vicinity for 475 years return period showing five zones
(0,1, 2A, 2B and 3).

It is interesting to note that UBC97 also classifies Manama (Bahrain) and Doha
(Qatar) as Zone 0, whereas Dharan (Saudi Arabia) and Kuwait are classified as
Zone 1. This would appear to be somewhat inconsistent since Dharan, Manama and
Doha are relatively close to each other, but it does confirm that the seismic hazard
along the southern edge of the Arabian Gulf is generally low. It is also noteworthy,
however, that Muscat (Oman) is classified as Zone 2A in UBC97, suggesting slightly
higher hazard. The higher hazard classification in Oman may reflect the influence of
large but relatively distant earthquakes in the Makran subduction zone in southern
Iran rather than significant local earthquakes activity. In the analyses performed
here the Northern Emirates are in Zone 2A, the middle part is in Zone 1 and
southern part of UAE is Zone 0.
In the analyses performed here the Z factors need to be estimated considering
the results of the current study. For this reason, response spectrum analysis con-
sidering soil conditions is required for representative sites in the UAE, where the
PGA on bedrock used in such analysis is obtained from the current study. This is
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

834 J. A. Abdalla & A. S. Al-Homoud

obviously going to be a following phase of research towards developing a micro-


hazard zonation map for the UAE considering local site effect conditions.
The fact that Dubai Municipality specified the use of UBC97 2A spectrum for
buildings of five storeys and greater strongly suggests that the concern is regarding
long-period radiation from larger earthquakes in the Arabian Gulf rather than small
local events to which tall structures would be relatively insensitive.

9. Conclusion
This paper investigated seismic hazard and seismic zoning of UAE and its surround-
ings based on probabilistic approach. The significant results of this investigation
are: (1) generation of seismic zone map that can be used, however with caution, as
a guide for determining the design earthquake for different regions of the studied
area; and (2) review of tectonics and seismotectonics of the studied area.
The area studied in this investigation span several countries with diverse tectonic
and geologic structures as well as various local geotechnical conditions. Although
the results of the seismic hazard assessment indicated that UAE has moderate to
low seismic hazard levels, nevertheless high seismic activities in the north part of
UAE warrant attention. The Northern Emirates is the most seismically active part
of UAE. The PGA on bedrock in this region ranges between 0.22 g for a return
period of 475 years to 0.38 g for a return period of 1900 years.
This magnitude of PGA on bedrock, together with amplification from local site
effect, can cause structural damage to key structures and lifeline systems. There-
fore, it is advisable that, earthquake effects should be taken into consideration when
designing major structures in these regions. Also, since there is no earthquake re-
sistant design code developed or adopted for UAE and for most of the countries of
the studied area, it is high time to consider this goal and provide engineers with
provisions and guidelines for earthquake-resistant design. This paper is the first
step towards achieving such goal.
Besides the inherent uncertainties in seismic hazard assessment, the results ob-
tained in this study have some other limitations and therefore future research in
some key areas is needed as follows: (1) The hazard assessment is done for an ideal
bed-rock condition, therefore care should be taken when using the results for sites
with special local conditions. In such cases, evaluation of local site and basin effects
such as soil types, geotechnical characteristics of sediments, topographic effects,
etc. should be considered since there is a wide variation of such characteristics from
region to another and from site to another. (2) The attenuation relation used in
this investigation is for Zagros fold zone. Since the reliability of the attenuation
relation greatly affects the assessment of earthquake hazards, the result of this in-
vestigation need to be revised and calibrated when sufficient strong motion data
become available and a reliable attenuation relation for other regions are devised.
(3) Seismic microzonation maps of densely populated cities (megacities) of UAE
and its surroundings need to be developed.
October 6, 2004 17:23 WSPC/124-JEE 00177

Seismic Hazard Assessment of UAE 835

Acknowledgment
The support for the research presented in this paper had been provided by the
American University of Sharjah, Faculty Research Grant. The support is gratefully
acknowledged. The views and conclusions, expressed or implied, in this document
are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as those of the sponsor.

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