Engineering geologic and geotechnical analysis of paleoseismic shaking using liquefaction effects: Field examples

Russell A. Green, Stephen F. Obermeier, Scott M. Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The greatest impediments to the widespread acceptance of back-calculated ground motion characteristics from paleoliquefaction studies typically stem from three uncertainties: (1) the significance of changes in the geotechnical properties of post-liquefied sediments (e.g., "aging" and density changes), (2) the selection of appropriate geotechnical soil indices from individual paleoliquefaction sites, and (3) the methodology for integration of back-calculated results of strength of shaking from individual paleoliquefaction sites into a regional assessment of paleoseismic strength of shaking. Presented herein are two case studies that illustrate the methods outlined by Olson et al. [Engineering Geology, this issue] for addressing these uncertainties. The first case study is for a site near Memphis, Tennessee, wherein cone penetration test data from side-by-side locations, one of liquefaction and the other of no liquefaction, are used to readily discern that the influence of post-liquefaction "aging" and density changes on the measured in situ soil indices is minimal. In the second case study, 12 sites that are at scattered locations in the Wabash Valley and that exhibit paleoliquefaction features are analyzed. The features are first provisionally attributed to the Vincennes Earthquake, which occurred around 6100 years BP, and are used to illustrate our proposed approach for selecting representative soil indices of the liquefied sediments. These indices are used in back-calculating the strength of shaking at the individual sites, the results from which are then incorporated into a regional assessment of the moment magnitude, M, of the Vincennes Earthquake. The regional assessment validated the provisional assumption that the paleoliquefaction features at the scattered sites were induced by the Vincennes Earthquake, in the main, which was determined to have M ∼ 7.5. The uncertainties and assumptions used in the assessment are discussed in detail.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-293
Number of pages31
JournalEngineering Geology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jan 2005


  • Earthquake
  • Liquefaction
  • New Madrid
  • Paleoliquefaction
  • Paleoseismic
  • Wabash Valley

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology


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