What Is Seismic Analysis?

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  • Written By: Christian Petersen
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2019
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Seismic analysis is the study of how earthquakes and other seismic events affect buildings, soils and the rocks of the Earth itself. As a field of study within structural engineering, seismic analysis is often used to study potential damage to buildings and other structures due to earthquakes. In geology, seismic analysis is used to study the interior of the Earth by analyzing the way seismic waves travel through the materials that make up the planet.

Structural engineers employ seismic analysis in a number of ways. Existing buildings and other structures as well as the surrounding and underlying soils and rocks may be studied with sophisticated simulation software to try to predict how they will act during an earthquake. This study is useful for emergency management, as well as for determining the relative safety and durability of buildings and other structures during and after earthquakes. These simulations allow structural engineers to recommend possible improvements and retrofits to existing structures to improve their ability to withstand earthquakes and to suggest changes or updates to building codes for areas prone to earthquakes.


Architects often work with structural engineers during the design phase of a new building or structure to determine how it will behave if struck by an earthquake. Many factors, including building design, materials, and the make up of underlying soils and rocks influence how a building will behave during and after an earthquake. Seismic analysis can help determine if a proposed design is strong and safe enough to adequately withstand earthquakes.

Geologists employ seismic analysis to study the interior of the earth. By studying the way seismic waves, either from earthquakes or from man made events like detonations of explosives, travel through the ground, they are able to learn much about the rocks and soils through which the seismic waves travel. Seismographs, extremely sensitive instruments that are designed to detect seismic waves, along with other instruments and computers, allow geologists to study layers of the Earth far beneath the surface that they would not otherwise be able to access.

In the mining industry, seismic analysis is used by geologists and mining engineers to determine potential places to look for mineral and petrochemical resources. Seismic analysis may also be used to predict potential safety problems in mines. Concerns about safety can arise because of the structure of the rocks and soils in which the mining is done as well as because of the way those rocks and soils might act during an earthquake.


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