Peak Ground AccelerationADDPMP055
Peak Ground Acceleration (PGA) is equal to the maximum ground acceleration that occurred during earthquake shaking at a location. PGA is equal to the amplitude of the largest absolute acceleration recorded on an accelerogram at a site during a particular earthquake. Earthquake shaking generally occurs in all three directions. Therefore, PGA is often split into the horizontal and vertical components. Horizontal PGAs are generally larger than those in the vertical direction but this is not always true, especially close to large earthquakes. PGA is an important parameter (also known as an intensity measure) for earthquake engineering, The design basis earthquake ground motion (DBEGM) is often defined in terms of PGA.
Unlike the Richter and moment magnitude scales, it is not a measure of the total energy (magnitude, or size) of an earthquake, but rather of how hard the earth shakes at a given geographic point. The Mercalli intensity scale uses personal reports and observations to measure earthquake intensity but PGA is measured by instruments, such as accelerographs. It can be correlated to macroseismic intensities on the Mercalli scale but these correlations are associated with large uncertainty. See also seismic scale.
The peak horizontal acceleration (PHA) is the most commonly used type of ground acceleration in engineering applications. It is often used within earthquake engineering (including seismic building codes) and it is commonly plotted on seismic hazard maps. In an earthquake, damage to buildings and infrastructure is related more closely to ground motion, of which PGA is a measure, rather than the magnitude of the earthquake itself. For moderate earthquakes, PGA is a reasonably good determinant of damage; in severe earthquakes, damage is more often correlated with peak ground velocity.