Two case histories demonstrating the effect of past earthquakes on liquefaction resistance of silty sand

W. El-Sekelly, R. Dobry, T. Abdoun, J. H. Steidl

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The paper compares two liquefaction case histories in California: (1) the response of the Wildlife site in the Imperial Valley to the 2010 El-Mayor Cucapah earthquake (Mw=7.2, amax=0.15 g); and (2) the response of the Treasure Island Fire Station (F.S.) site in the San Francisco Bay area to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (Mw=6.9, amax=0.16 g). Both histories involve silty sand critical layers with nonplastic fines contents, FC=24-27%, similar normalized shear wave velocities, Vs1=145-155 m/s, low cone penetration test (CPT) cone penetration resistances, and groundwater tables at essentially the same depth. The corresponding data points plot almost on top of each other on the shear wave velocity field liquefaction charts, which predict liquefaction at both sites. While Treasure Island F.S. did liquefy during the shaking, Wildlife did not and was far from liquefaction as indicated by piezometers at the site. This paper constitutes an attempt to understand the reason for these very different pore pressure responses through a detailed analysis of similarities and differences between the two histories. It is concluded that preshaking by previous earthquakes is the most probable explanation of the higher liquefaction resistance exhibited by the Wildlife site and other sites in the Imperial Valley. While the Wildlife critical layer was subjected to about 60-70 earthquakes capable of generating significant excess pore pressures between its estimated 1907 deposition and the 2010 earthquake, the Treasure Island F.S. layer was subjected to only about two earthquakes capable of doing so between deposition in the 1930's and the 1989 earthquake. This difference is due to the very high seismic activity in the last 100-plus years in the Imperial Valley compared with a seismically quiet San Francisco Bay Area after the 1906 earthquake. The significance of the prior seismic history is corroborated by recent results from centrifuge and large-scale experiments. These results as well as the methodology developed in the paper may be helpful when analyzing the observed high liquefaction resistance of sandy sites located in other seismic regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number04017009
JournalJournal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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