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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. In the realm of seismic hazard mitigation alone, it is worthwhile to recall that despite continuous progress in building numerical modeling methodologies, one critical remaining step is the ability to forecast the earthquake ground motion to which a structure will be exposed during its lifetime. Until such forecasting can be done reliably, complete success in the design process will not be fulfilled. Our involvement in this scientific thematic is rather recent and mainly result from the setup of an active collaboration with geophysicians from the Géosciences Azur Laboratory in Sophia Antipolis. In the framework of this collaboration, our objective is to develop high order unstructured mesh based methods for the numerical solution of the time domain elastodynamic equations modeling the propagation of seismic waves in heterogeneous media on one hand, and the design of associated numerical methodologies for modeling the dynamic formation of a fault resulting from an earthquake.

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 soils' material properties are highly heterogeneous. And fifth, geology and source parameters are observable only indirectly and thus introduce uncertainty in the modeling process. Because of its modeling and computational complexity and its importance to hazard mitigation, earthquake simulation is currently recognized as a grand challenge problem.

Numerical methods for the propagation of seismic waves have been studied for many years. Most of existing numerical software rely on finite element or finite difference methods. Among the most popular schemes, one can cite the staggered grid finite difference scheme proposed by Virieux [48] and based on the first order velocity-stress hyperbolic system of elastic waves equations, which is an extension of the scheme derived by K.S. Yee [50] for the solution of the Maxwell equations. The use of cartesian meshes is a limitation for such codes especially when it is necessary to incorporate surface topography or curved interface. In this context, our objective is to solve these equations by finite volume or discontinuous Galerkin methods on unstructured triangular (2D case) or tetrahedral (3D case) meshes. Our first achievement in this domain has been a centered finite volume methods on unstructured simplicial meshes [1] -[12] for the simulation of dynamic fault rupture, which has been validated and evaluated on various problems, ranging from academic test cases to realistic situations. More recently, a high order discontinuous Galerkin method has been proposed for the resolution of the systems of 2D and 3D elastodynamic equations[13] .


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