Soil liquefaction, a destructive natural phenomenon associated with earthquakes, has long been linked to undrained conditions near earthquake epicenters. However, recent research conducted by Dr. Shahar Ben-Zeev at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Strasbourg in France has revealed a groundbreaking discovery: soil liquefaction can occur under drained conditions, even at low seismic-energy density levels.
This study, titled “Drainage Explains Soil Liquefaction Beyond the Earthquake near-field,” challenges the traditional understanding of soil liquefaction and offers a comprehensive explanation for far-field liquefaction events during earthquakes. The research sheds light on how seismic shaking in drained conditions triggers interstitial fluid flow within the soil, leading to excess pore-pressure gradients and the loss of soil strength.
Drained liquefaction is a catastrophic phenomenon that results in buildings sinking, floating, tilting, and ground spreading, cracking, settling, or initiating landslides. It causes extensive human casualties, infrastructure damage, and economic losses, often forcing the abandonment of inhabited areas.
The traditional view of liquefaction as an undrained process under high-energy-density conditions left many earthquake liquefaction events unexplained, especially those occurring far from the epicenter. This research, which combines theoretical work, numerical simulations, and experimental validation, provides a unique perspective on the phenomenon.
Understanding soil liquefaction is essential for public safety, infrastructure resilience, water resources, and earthquake consequences management in vulnerable regions. This study could lead to a revision of estimated earthquake magnitudes calculated by standard methods and has far-reaching implications for earthquake engineering and preparedness.