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Drowning after earthquakes | EurekAlert!




image: Soil liquefaction is a ground response during earthquakes in which the ground turns from a solid to a fluid, sand-like medium that is harmful to structures. The sequence of the 2010 Canterbury earthquake caused $3 billion in damage to buildings and infrastructure in New Zealand’s South Island, particularly in the city of Christchurch, much of that from soil liquefaction. A massive dataset of 15,000 sequencing liquefaction status records won the 2021 DesignSafe Dataset Award. Show more

Credit: Brett Maurer, University of Washington.

During an earthquake, solid ground can disintegrate and turn into something like quicksand.

Under an earthquake some soils undergo liquefaction, a softening caused by groundwater pressure that turns into an earth-shaking evil twin. Liquefaction causes major ground deformations that have led to the demolition of buildings large and small, as well as the smashing and removal of pipes under roads, railways, bridges, and dams.

This was the case for the 2010 Canterbury earthquake sequence, the most damaging being the 6.2-magnitude Christchurch earthquake. The sequence of earthquakes, 21 of which were greater than 5, caused $3 billion in damage to buildings and infrastructure in New Zealand’s South Island, particularly in the city of Christchurch, which will receive the brunt of its deadliest aftershocks a year later. .

In 2021, scientists completed a massive set of earthquake liquefaction data from the three largest Canterbury earthquakes 2010-2016.

The dataset, which includes more than 15,000 liquefaction case records, has been made publicly available on the NHERI DesignSafe electronic infrastructure. An interview data sheet was published in March 2021 in the journal Earthquake Spectra.

The authors of the seismic liquefaction dataset have been awarded the 2021 DesignSafe Dataset Award, in recognition of the contributions of the diverse dataset to natural hazard research.

The authors are Mertkan Gein and Brett W. Maurer of the University of Washington. Brendon Bradley of the University of Canterbury; Russell A. Green of Virginia Tech; and Sjoerd van Ballegoy of Tonkin + Taylor Ltd.

This specific data set documents the effects of ground deformation of liquefaction on structures in the Canterbury region of New Zealand. Ground reconnaissance and remote sensing captured observations of the occurrence and intensity of liquefaction across the region. The Cone Penetration Test (CPT), which mainly drives a cone into the ground, was conducted to understand the ground resistance and soil density, as well as to monitor the groundwater.

Remarkably, before the Canterbury liquefaction data set, there were only about 250 historical occurrences of all other global earthquakes combined.

“This data set significantly increases the data available for typical training and testing by at least 50 times, giving the profession a unique opportunity to advance the science of liquefaction prediction,” said co-author Brett Maurer.

Fluid forecasting is critical to rebuilding efforts and to help provide better engineering solutions in the aftermath of an earthquake.

“DesignSafe provides a prominent and visual platform for the communication and dissemination of critical data,” Maurer explained. “Our datasets are provided in Matlab and Python formats, so users can work directly with the data (for example, to create models) without leaving the DesignSafe platform.”

The subsequently processed data is presented in a single file as a hierarchical matrix that allows researchers to easily access and analyze a wide range of information relevant to the free-field liquefaction response.

Scientists’ computer models that predict liquefaction must be trained and tested on real data. The case dates represent the locations where the liquefaction response was observed after the earthquake; Where ground motions have been recorded or can be reasonably approximated, and where an on-site geotechnical test has been performed to characterize the ability to resist liquefaction.

The data life cycle begins when an earthquake occurs, during which ground motions across the affected area are recorded. Immediately thereafter, ground reconnaissance and remote sensing captured observations of the occurrence and intensity of liquefaction throughout the region. In the following months and years, CPT and groundwater monitoring are performed.

Case histories are then compiled one by one, carefully examining each CPT; Survey data and satellite imagery from each CPT site; The intensity of ground motion during each earthquake at each CPT site; and groundwater depths at each CPT site at the time of each earthquake.

“Organizing and processing the data took years of effort,” Maurer said. “But none of this would have been possible, had it not been for the hundreds of people who worked to get the data in the first place (ie CPT testing, satellite imagery, groundwater modeling, etc.) as part of A massive effort funded by the New Zealand Government. For this effort, our work to collect and disseminate data has been trivial.”

Ultimately, everyone in society benefits from improved risk assessments.

“In many earthquakes, soil liquefaction causes significant damage and loss, as demonstrated by the Canterbury earthquakes in New Zealand, where large parts of the city were irreparably damaged and turned into green space,” said Maurer. “When someone is building a road, bridge, house, etc., building codes require that liquefaction risks be assessed. We all want these assessments to be accurate.”

“Data is everything in life. It’s how we make our decisions about every step we take. Without earthquake data, we don’t know if our current risk prediction models are working and we have no way to make better predictions in the future,”


Funding for the dataset was provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the US Geological Survey (USGS), and the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER) under grants CMMI-1751216, CMMI-1825189, CMMI-1937984, G18AP-00006, and 1132-NCTRBM , Straight. The work was also supported by QuakeCoRE, the New Zealand Center for Earthquake Resilience. Above all, the authors acknowledge the countless people who contributed to the collection of liquefaction state history data, which was collected under the auspices of the New Zealand Earthquake Commission (EQC).


DesignSafe is a comprehensive electronic infrastructure that forms part of the NSF-funded Natural Hazard Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) and provides cloud-based tools to manage, analyze, understand and publish critical research data to understand the impacts of natural hazards. The capabilities within the DesignSafe infrastructure are freely available to all researchers working in the field of natural hazards. The software development and electronic infrastructure team is located at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas at Austin, with a team of natural hazard researchers from the University of Texas, Florida Institute of Technology, and Rice University that includes seniors. management team.

NHERI is supported by multiple grants from the National Science Foundation, including DesignSafe Cyberinfrastructure, Award No. 2022469.




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