On February 22, 2011, a magnitude Mw 6.2 earthquake affected the Canterbury region, New Zealand, resulting in many fatalities. Liquefaction occurred across many areas, visible on the surface as “sand volcanoes”, blisters and subsidence, causing significant damage to buildings, land and infrastructure.

Liquefaction occurred at a number of sites across the Christchurch Boys High School sports grounds; one area in particular contained a piston ground failure and an adjacent silt volcano. Here, as part of a class project, we apply near-surface geophysics to image these two liquefaction features and determine whether they share a subsurface connection. Hand auger results enable correlation of the geophysical responses with the subsurface stratigraphy.

The survey results suggest that there is a subsurface link, likely via a paleo-stream channel. The anomalous responses of the horizontal loop electromagnetic survey and electrical resistivity imaging highlight the disruption of the subsurface electrical properties beneath and between the two liquefaction features. The vertical magnetic gradient may also show a subtle anomalous response in this area, however the results are inconclusive. The ground penetrating radar survey shows disruption of the subsurface stratigraphy beneath the liquefaction features, in particular sediment mounding beneath the silt ejection (“silt volcano”) and stratigraphic disruption beneath the piston failure.

The results indicate how near-surface geophysics allow the characteristics of liquefaction in the subsurface to be better understood, which could aid remediation work following liquefaction-induced land damage and guide interpretation of geophysical surveys of paleoliquefaction features.

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