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Assessment of Nakamura Methodology for Evaluating

Soil Liquefaction Potential

Mauricio Herrera, Civil Engineer1, Sebastián Arango, Ph.D. Student2, Alejandro Cruz,
Assistance Professor3, Eimar Sandoval, Assistance Professor4, and
Peter Thomson, Professor5

Civil and Geomatic Engineering School; Research Group on Seismic, Wind, Geotechnical and
Structural Engineering, Universidad del Valle, Colombia; herrera.mauricio@correounivalle.edu.co
Civil and Geomatic Engineering School; Research Group on Seismic, Wind, Geotechnical and
Structural Engineering, Universidad del Valle, Colombia; arango.sebastian@correounivalle.edu.co
Civil and Geomatic Engineering School; Research Group on Seismic, Wind, Geotechnical and
Structural Engineering, Universidad del Valle, Colombia; alejandro.cruz@correounivalle.edu.co
Civil and Geomatic Engineering School; Research Group on Seismic, Wind, Geotechnical and
Structural Engineering Universidad del Valle, Colombia; eimar.sandoval@correounivalle.edu.co
Civil and Geomatic Engineering School; Research Group on Seismic, Wind, Geotechnical and
Structural Engineering, Universidad del Valle, Colombia; peter.thomson@correounivalle.edu.co


Cyclic liquefaction is a phenomenon in which soil deposits formed by loose and saturated sands,
lose their shear resistance due to dynamic loads, as earthquakes, sometimes causing the collapse
of structures. This phenomenon is a hazard in different cities of the world, as is the case of Santiago
de Cali (Colombia), a city that has large alluvial deposits due to its seven rivers. Currently, the
liquefaction potential is evaluated by field tests that can be expensive and difficult to perform in
densely urbanized areas. Due to this drawbacks, this paper proposes a simple and versatile
methodology to evaluate the liquefaction potential in large areas based on the Vulnerability Index
(𝐾𝑔 ) proposed by Nakamura in 1997 (hereinafter Nakamura Methodology). This methodology
consists of calculating the vulnerability index using the fundamental frequency (𝐹𝑔 ) and
amplification factor (𝐴𝑔 ) determined using HVSR method. The 𝐾𝑔 index quantifies the probable
damage in the soil produced by earthquakes, and for sand deposits, 𝐾𝑔 can be correlated with
liquefaction potential. For this research, the liquefaction potential was evaluated using Nakamura
methodology in 34 points of Santiago de Cali, within an approximate area of 12 km2. The results
were compared with those of SPT and CPT tests performed in the same area. The methodology
showed a match of up to 82% compared to conventional methods. In conclusion, Nakamura
methodology is a viable alternative for liquefaction hazard mapping of large areas and could be
very useful in places where there are limited funds or the conditions for more robust testing are
not available.

Currently, the evaluation of liquefaction potential is done by field tests (Youd et al., 2001) as the
standard penetration test - SPT (Seed & Idriss, 1971; Seed, Idriss, & Arango, 1983), the piezocone
penetration test - CPTu (Robertson & Wride, 1998), and geophysical tests (Andrus & Stokoe,
2000). Through laboratory tests, such as the cyclic triaxial test (Seed & Lee, 1966) and the cyclic
simple shear test (Finn, Pickering, & Bransby, 1971; de Alba, Seed, & Chan, 1976), liquefaction
susceptibility is also evaluated. These tests may be logistically inconvenient to evaluate
liquefaction potential in large areas, due to the setting of the field tests, costs, time and others.
In order to counteract these drawbacks, this paper proposes a simple and versatile
methodology based on the Vulnerability Index (𝐾𝑔 ) proposed by Nakamura (1997) to evaluate the
liquefaction potential in large areas This methodology allows to establish which areas are more
exposed to liquefaction. Therefore, this methodology is a good alternative to generate hazard maps
for this phenomenon. To validate this methodology the liquefaction potential was evaluated in a
deposit of loose and saturated sands. Then, the results were compared with those obtained in the
same area using standard penetration tests - SPT, piezocone penetration tests - CPTu.
The experimental program was carried out in a strip of 12 km2 in the area known as the
Aguablanca District in Santiago de Cali (Colombia). This zone is located to the west margin of the
Cauca River. According to several studies, this area is potentially liquefiable, which puts more
than 600.000 people and a considerable number of public and private structures of importance to
the city at risk (Ingeominas & Dagma, 2005; Sandoval, Campaña, & Cruz, 2013; Alcaldía de
Santiago de Cali, 2016).
Aguablanca District soils are formed by deposits of the Cauca River left along the evolution
and rambling of its riverbed. Its stratigraphic profile is characterized by the presence of
overconsolidated silty clayey materials with a thickness between 3 m and 8 m overlying thin sand
deposits of low relative density with thickness between 4 m and 10 m. As the depth of the soil
deposit increases the grain size increases to medium-compact gravel (Ingeominas & Dagma,


The proposed methodology allows to establish which zones are more likely to present liquefaction
in large areas. For its application, there must be previous reports of occurrence of liquefaction in
the area to be evaluated. The steps proposed for this methodology are set out below:

1. Selection of study area.

2. Selection of liquefaction failure shear strain (𝛾𝑓 ).
3. Selection of maximum expected acceleration in basement (𝑎𝑏 ) and shear wave velocity in
basement (𝑣𝑏 ).
4. Selection of microtremor sampling points.

5. Microtremor recording.
6. Signal processing using the HVSR method. Obtaining ground fundamental frequency (𝐹𝑔 )
and amplification factor (𝐴𝑔 ).
7. Calculation of ground vulnerability index (𝐾𝑔 ).
8. Calculation of expected seismic shear strain of the soil (𝛾).
9. Liquefaction evaluation by shear strain (𝛾 𝑣𝑠. 𝛾𝑓 ) and failure vulnerability index selection
(𝐾𝑔𝑓 ).
10. Mapping of liquefaction-exposed areas.

1. Selection of study area

To ensure which potentially liquefiable soils have the same characteristics throughout the study
area, it is recommended that these belongs to the same soil deposit. Thus, the criteria of geologist
and geotechnical engineers who have worked in the area and the information from previous site
soil surveys are required.

2. Liquefaction failure shear strain (𝜸𝒇 )

It must be established the shear strain range in which the soil studied may presents liquefaction.
This range can be established from laboratory tests, deformation failure criteria or previous studies
in the area. In order to obtain conservative results, it is recommended to take as liquefaction failure
shear strain (𝛾𝑓 ) the lowest shear strain recorded in laboratory tests during liquefaction. If there
are no laboratory tests, it can be used a deformation failure criteria such as proposed by Ishihara
(1996) (Table 1).

Table 1. Variation of soil properties with strain (Ishihara, 1996).

Shear strain (𝛾) 0.0001% 0.001% 0.01% 0.1% 1.0% 10.0%

Wave Crack
Phenomena Soil Compaction
Vibration Settlement
Mechanical characteristics Elastic Elasto-plastic Collapse

3. Maximum expected acceleration (𝒂𝒃 ) and shear wave velocity (𝒗𝒃 ) in basement
The maximum expected acceleration in basement during an earthquake should be chosen for the
study area (𝑎𝑏 ). This data can be taken from local earthquake-resistant construction standards,
seismic microzonation studies, among others. Likewise, shear wave velocity of the seismic
basement (𝑣𝑏 ) must be set, which can be established through tests that provide the shear wave
velocity profiles. Nakamura methodology assumes that the shear wave velocity of the seismic
basement (𝑣𝑏 ) is equal or greater than 600 m/s (Nakamura, 2000).

4. Microtremor sampling points
In order to obtain a representative information density, it is recommended to distribute the
sampling points in the interceptions of a grid that covers the study area, with a maximum of 500
m between axes. These points must be away from trees, buildings and underground structures that
could interfere with the microtremors propagation. Constant sources of vibrations such as traffic,
factories and heavy machinery must also be avoided. Their operational frequencies could change
the amplitude and frequency content of the microtremors. (Bard & SESAME-Team, 2004).

5. Microtremor recording
It is recommended to use a weak motion sensor configured at maximum gain. The sensor must be
leveled according to the manufacturer recommendations and be installed directly on the ground.
Measurements under heavy rainfall or when the sensor is in a clear area with wind speeds above 5
m/s must be avoided. The sensor cannot be covered with flexible materials, as its vibration can
affect the recorded information. The microtremors recording duration is related to the minimum
expected natural frequency of the ground (Table 2). If this value is unknown, a minimum duration
of 30 min is recommended (Bard & SESAME-Team, 2004).

Table 2. Recommended recording duration (Bard & SESAME-Team, 2004).

Minimum expected frequency [Hz] 0.2 0.5 1.0 2.0 5.0 10.0
Minimum recording duration [min] 30 20 10 5 3 2

6. Signal processing using the HVSR method

Microtremor records of each point are processed using the HVSR method proposed by Nakamura
(1989; 2000). To do this, the soil transfer function is calculated by the spectral ratio between the
horizontal (𝐻𝑓 ) and vertical (𝑉𝑓 ) components of the record (Eq. 1). From this function, the
fundamental frequency (𝐹𝑔 ) and amplification factor (𝐴𝑔 ) of the soil deposit are obtained for each
evaluated point (Figure 1). Following the recommendations given by Bard (Bard & SESAME-
Team, 2004), 𝐻𝑓 is suggested to be the spectral combination of north-south (𝐻𝑁𝑆 ) and east-west
(𝐻𝐸𝑊 ) horizontal components.

𝑇 = 𝐻𝑓 ⁄𝑉𝑓 (1)

7. Ground vulnerability index (𝑲𝒈 )

With the 𝐹𝑔 y 𝐴𝑔 values obtained using the HVSR method for each recorded point, the ground
vulnerability index (𝐾𝑔 ) is calculated by using the Eq. 2. According to Nakamura and Takizawa
(1990), this parameter makes possible to quantify the probable damage in superficial strata of a
soil deposit subject to the action of an earthquake. For sand deposits, this parameter can be
correlated with liquefaction failures (Nakamura, 1997).

𝐾𝑔 = 𝐴𝑔 2 ⁄𝐹𝑔 (2)
Figure 1. Combined horizontal spectrum (𝑯𝒇 ), vertical spectrum (𝑽𝒇 )
and transfer function (𝑻).

8. Ground shear strain due to earthquake (𝜸)

With 𝐾𝑔 , 𝑎𝑏 and 𝑣𝑏 values for each point, the maximum expected surface shear strain (𝛾) during
the occurrence of an earthquake is calculated according to the simplified deformation model
(Figure 2) proposed by Nakamura & Takizawa (Nakamura & Takizawa, 1990; Nakamura, 1997;
Nakamura, 2000). This deformation model assumes the following hypotheses:

 The maximum basement acceleration during an earthquake (𝑎𝑏 ) is equal to the maximum
basement acceleration of design earthquakes for the region.
 (𝑎𝑏 ) is expressed as the maximum acceleration of a sinusoidal wave whose amplitude is
the maximum basement displacement during an earthquake (𝑑𝑏 ) (Eq. 3).
 The ground fundamental frequency (𝐹𝑔 ) is function of the shear wave velocity (𝑣𝑠 ) and
height (𝐻) of the ground deposit (Eq. 4).
 The basement shear wave velocity (𝑣𝑏 ) is equal to the ground shear wave velocity (𝑣𝑠 )
multiplied by the ground amplification factor (𝐴𝑔 ) (Eq. 5).
 The maximum surface displacement due to earthquake (𝑑𝑠 ) is equal to the basement
displacement (𝑑𝑏 ) plus a lineal increase with the ground amplification factor (𝐴𝑔 ) (Eq. 6).

 The expected shear strain on surface (𝛾) results from the ratio between the surface
displacement increase (∆𝑑) and the ground deposit height (𝐻), as shown in Figure 2 and
Eq. 7. After a simple mathematical procedure, 𝛾 is expressed as function of 𝐾𝑔 , 𝑣𝑏 and 𝑎𝑏 .

Figure 2. Model of surface shear strain due to earthquakes proposed by Nakamura &
Takizawa (1990).
𝑎𝑏 = 𝜔2 𝑑𝑏 = (2𝜋𝐹𝑔 )2 𝑑𝑏 → 𝑑𝑏 = (3)
(2𝜋𝐹𝑔 )2

𝑣𝑠 𝑣𝑠
𝐹𝑔 = →𝐻= (4)
4𝐻 4𝐹𝑔

𝑣𝑏 𝑣𝑏
𝑣𝑏 = 𝐴𝑔 𝑣𝑠 → 𝑣𝑠 = →𝐻= (5)
𝐴𝑔 4𝐴𝑔 𝐹𝑔

𝑑𝑠 = 𝑑𝑏 + ∆𝑑𝑏 = 𝑑𝑏 + 𝐴𝑔 𝑑𝑏 (6)

∆𝑑𝑏 𝐴𝑔 𝑑𝑏 𝐴𝑔 2 1 𝐾𝑔 𝑎𝑏
𝛾= = = 2
𝑎𝑏 = 2 (7)
𝐻 𝐻 𝐹𝑔 𝜋 𝑣𝑏 𝜋 𝑣𝑏

9. Liquefaction evaluation by shear strain (𝜸 vs. 𝜸𝒇 ) and failure vulnerability index

selection (𝑲𝒈𝒇 )
For each point 𝛾 ≥ 𝛾𝑓 is evaluated, the points where this condition is met are potentially
liquefiable. Then, it is established the minimum 𝐾𝑔 value where 𝛾 ≥ 𝛾𝑓 , which is defined as the
vulnerability index for liquefaction failure (𝐾𝑔𝑓 ). With this value, a microtremor record to apply
the HVSR method and calculate 𝐾𝑔 is sufficient to establish if a place within the studied area is
potentially liquefiable.

10. Mapping of liquefaction-prone areas
With the information obtained from the zone a liquefaction hazard map through interpolation
methods can be made, where the areas potentially liquefiable (𝛾 ≥ 𝛾𝑓 o 𝐾𝑔 ≥ 𝐾𝑔𝑓 ) and non-
liquefiable (𝛾 < 𝛾𝑓 o 𝐾𝑔 < 𝐾𝑔𝑓 ) will be indicated.


Estimation of liquefaction failure shear strain (𝜸𝒇 ) through cyclic triaxial tests
The tests were conducted using Aguablanca sand extracted from the study area. The soil
characteristics are summarized in Table 3. Isotropically consolidated undrained cyclic triaxial tests
were performed, using a Geocomp Triaxial Testing System. Sand specimens were prepared using
undercompaction with moist tamping method (Ladd, 1978), with a moisture content ranging
between 7% and 9%. Specimens’ diameter and height were approximately 7.1 cm and 14.5 cm
(2.8 in and 5.7 in) respectively. Relative densities (𝐷𝑟 ) of prepared specimens ranged from 35% to
62%. After preparation, the specimens were saturated to B-values greater than 0.95, and
isotropically consolidated at effective stresses of 50 kPa and 100 kPa. Isotropic consolidation
increased relative densities to values between 44% and 72%. The cyclic stress ration (𝐶𝑆𝑅) ranged
between 0.10 and 0.22 with a deviatoric stress applied at 1 Hz in frequency. Axial deformation,
axial load, chamber pressure and pore pressure were controlled during the tests with a data
acquisition rate of 100 Hz.
The cyclic resistance curves for the different conditions tested are shown in Figure 3, where
𝑁𝐿𝑖𝑞 is the number of cycles in which the effective stress is equal to zero, i. e., the pore pressure
(𝑢) is equal to the consolidation effective stress (𝜎3′ ) of the sample. Other results of these tests
were published by Sandoval et al. (Sandoval, Campaña, & Cruz, 2013).

Table 3. Aguablanca sand properties (Sandoval, Campaña, & Cruz, 2013).

Source Aguablanca USCS SP-SM 𝑫𝟓𝟎 0.20 mm 𝒆𝒎𝒂𝒙 1.29

Non-plastic fines 8% 𝑪𝒖 2.44 𝑮𝒔 2.72 𝒆𝒎𝒊𝒏 0.72

The results show that Aguablanca sand fails by liquefaction in a shear strain range 𝛾
between 0.68% and 2.47% (Table 4). This shear strain range during liquefaction is within that
reported by Ishihara (1996) (Table 1). As liquefaction failure shear strain (𝛾𝑓 ), the minimum
reported value will be taken for this study, which corresponds to 𝛾𝑓 = 0.67%.

Figure 3. CSR versus number of cycles to liquefaction (Sandoval, Campaña, & Cruz, 2013).

Table 4. Values of shear strain during liquefaction.

𝝈′𝟑 𝑫𝒓 CSR NLiq 𝜸 [%]

44% 0.145 18 2.47
50 kPa
67% 0.210 3 0.68
50% 0.105 233 1.42
100 kPa
70% 0.115 139 1.74

Soil liquefaction potential evaluation through Nakamura methodology

Environmental vibration records were acquired at 34 points in the Aguablanca District, selected
according to the recommendations of SESAME project. (Bard & SESAME-Team, 2004). Each
point location was georeferenced using a GPS, and the environmental vibration records were
acquired using the Portable Real-Time Soil Monitoring System developed by Universidad del
Valle (Gallo, Aguas, Arango, Cruz, & Thomson, 2017). This portable unit features a Lennartz
triaxial velocity sensor model LE-3Dlite which was installed directly on firm ground. The sensor
is connected to a NI-9234 National Instruments acquisition module which in turn is coupled to a
NI cDAQ-9174 National Instruments chassis. This allows continuous data acquisition and
transmission through an Ethernet cable to a laptop that acquires and stores the records using
MATLAB® Data Acquisition and Signal Processing Toolboxes. At each point, a minimum of 3
records, each 10 minutes, were taken, with an acquisition frequency of 2048 Hz and real time
resampling at 256 Hz.

Each 10 minutes record was divided into 30 second windows overlapped in 50%. Each
window was then converted to the frequency domain using the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT). The
horizontal components (𝐻𝑁𝑆 y 𝐻𝐸𝑊 ) were combined using the quadratic mean (Eq. 8) as
recommended by the SESAME project (Bard & SESAME-Team, 2004; Albarello & Lunedei,
2013; Rezaei & Choobbasti, 2014). The spectral ratio between the combined horizontal component
(𝐻𝑓 ) and the vertical component (𝑉𝑓 ) was then performed to obtain an approximate transfer
function (𝑇) (Eq. 1). This process was repeated for all the record windows, creating a transfer
functions family that was averaged to obtain a single function that represents the soil dynamic
properties. From the average transfer function for each sampling point, the fundamental frequency
(𝐹𝑔 ) and the amplification factor (𝐴𝑔 ) were determined, from which the vulnerability index (𝐾𝑔 )
was calculated using Eq. 2 (Table 5).

𝐻𝑓 = [(𝐻𝑁𝑆 2 + 𝐻𝐸𝑊 2 )⁄2] (8)

Using the simplified deformation model proposed by Nakamura, the maximum expected
surface shear strain (𝛾) due to earthquake occurrence is calculated (Eq. 7, Table 5). For this
purpose, the basement shear wave velocity was considered as 𝑣𝑏 = 600 m/s (Nakamura, 2000)
and a maximum expected basement acceleration of 𝑎𝑏 = 0.25 g (Ingeominas & Dagma, 2005;
Asociación Colombiana de Ingeniería Sísmica, 2010). The calculated shear strains were evaluated
according to the shear strain for liquefaction failure (𝛾𝑓 ) reported in the cyclic triaxial tests results.
The application results of this criterion are shown in Table 5, where "NO" means that the
calculated shear strains are less than 𝛾𝑓 and the soil is non-liquefiable, and "YES" means that the
calculated shear strains are equal to or exceed 𝛾𝑓, and soil is potentially liquefiable. The results
show that vulnerability index for liquefaction failure is 𝐾𝑔𝑓 ≈ 16.5. Above 𝐾𝑔𝑓 the soil could
present liquefaction. In accordance with the mentioned above and based on the information shown
in Table 5, a soil liquefaction hazard microzoning map was constructed by using linear
interpolation in ArcGis® (Figure 4).

Results verification through CPTu test

In this research, piezocone penetration tests (CPTu) were carried out in 9 points distributed along
Aguablanca District at depths ranging from 5 m to 14 m. In the test, based on the standard ASTM
D-5778 (2012), tip resistance (𝑞𝑐 ), friction resistance (𝑓𝑠 ) and pore pressure (𝑢) generated as the
cone penetrates the ground were measured. From the data recorded and using different types of
correlations (Robertson & Cabal, 2015) it was possible to create continuous stratigraphic profiles.
Other geotechnical parameters such as unit weight and relative density (𝐷𝑟 ) were also estimated.
Generally, the explored sites soil profile is composed of three layers arranged as shown in Table

Table 5. Liquefaction potential evaluation through Nakamura Methodology.

𝜸 ≥ 𝜸𝒇 Conventional
Id. Point 𝑨𝒈 𝑭𝒈 [Hz] 𝑻𝒈 [s] 𝑲𝒈 𝜸 [%]
Yes/No Method
AB001 3.56 0.71 1.41 17.90 0.741 Yes Liquefiable
AB002 2.16 0.79 1.26 5.87 0.243 No Non-liquefiable
AB003 4.18 0.66 1.53 26.70 1.106 Yes Liquefiable
AB004 4.19 0.73 1.37 24.14 1.000 Yes Non-liquefiable
AB005 3.81 0.76 1.32 19.07 0.790 Yes Non-liquefiable
AB006 6.48 0.75 1.34 56.26 2.330 Yes Liquefiable
AB007 4.16 0.66 1.51 26.14 1.083 Yes Liquefiable
AB008 5.30 0.67 1.49 41.70 1.727 Yes Non-liquefiable
AB009 2.67 0.72 1.39 9.93 0.411 No Non-liquefiable
AB010 4.89 0.62 1.60 38.24 1.584 Yes Liquefiable
AB011 3.84 0.68 1.48 21.86 0.905 Yes No data*
AB012 4.08 0.67 1.49 24.73 1.024 Yes No data*
AB013 4.37 0.66 1.52 29.01 1.202 Yes No data*
AB014 4.81 0.70 1.42 32.80 1.358 Yes No data*
AB015 2.82 0.77 1.30 10.39 0.430 No Inconclusive
AB016 3.91 0.53 1.87 28.55 1.182 Yes Non-liquefiable
AB017 2.97 0.63 1.60 14.15 0.586 No Non-liquefiable
AB018 3.14 0.62 1.60 15.83 0.656 No Liquefiable
AB019 1.90 0.79 1.26 4.54 0.188 No Liquefiable
AB020 3.31 0.62 1.60 17.54 0.727 Yes No data*
AB021 2.84 0.71 1.42 11.46 0.474 No Non-liquefiable
AB022 3.29 0.74 1.36 14.66 0.607 No No data*
AB023 2.87 0.70 1.42 11.71 0.485 No No data*
AB024 3.05 0.69 1.44 13.39 0.554 No Non-liquefiable
AB025 2.10 0.67 1.49 6.53 0.270 No Inconclusive
AB027 1.57 0.89 1.13 2.79 0.115 No No data*
AB028 2.98 0.78 1.28 11.35 0.470 No No data*
AB029 3.54 0.83 1.20 15.05 0.623 No No data*
AB030 4.35 0.55 1.83 34.69 1.437 Yes Liquefiable
AB031 3.81 0.69 1.46 21.13 0.875 Yes Non-liquefiable
AB032 4.85 0.69 1.45 33.98 1.407 Yes No data*
AB033 4.44 0.77 1.30 25.68 1.064 Yes No data*
AB034 3.06 0.78 1.29 12.10 0.501 No No data*
AB035 3.70 0.56 1.80 24.58 1.018 Yes Inconclusive
*Means that there are not conventional test data within a radius of 100 m.

Table 6. Geotechnical characterization of the study zone.

Thickness Tip resistance Friction resistance 𝑫𝒓

Layer Material
[m] [MPa] [kPa] [%]
Layer 1 Stiff granular soil 0.5 to 1.2 1 to 8 50 to 250
Layer 2 Clay to silty clay 1 to 10 <2 25 to 300
Layer 3 Sand, silty sand 20 to
4 to 10 1 to 16 10 to 75
Liquefiable and sandy silt 60

A semi-empirical method based on the CPTu field test was used to estimate liquefaction
potential. This method is deterministic and requires the estimation of cyclic stress ratio (𝐶𝑆𝑅) and
cyclic resistance ratio (𝐶𝑅𝑅) of the soil. The 𝐶𝑆𝑅 and 𝐶𝑅𝑅 values were calculated according to
correlations proposed by Seed & Idriss (1971), Youd et al. (2001) y Robertson & Cabal (2015).
The results showed liquefaction at points AB001 (2 boreholes), AB007, AB018 and AB030, at
depths between 3 m and 11.5 m. Points AB016 (2 boreholes) and AB021 (2 boreholes) were non-
liquefiable (Figure 4).

Complementary information
As part of the seismic microzonation study of Santiago de Cali (Ingeominas & Dagma, 2005),
4860 geotechnical boreholes (SPT and CPTu) were collected from 8 local engineering companies.
For this research, 262 SPT and 10 CPTu tests were located within the study area, from which the
liquefaction potential was evaluated following the semi-empirical methods described above (Seed
& Idriss, 1971; Seed, Idriss, & Arango, 1983; Youd et al., 2001). The information analysis resulted
in 79 points being potentially liquefiable and 193 points that not.
Figure 4 shows with red dots the liquefiable points according to the analysis carried out,
and with green dots the non-liquefiable points within the study area. A main conclusion of this
study was that alluvial plain is susceptible to liquefaction. The depth at what it occurs depend
mainly of relative density 𝐷𝑟 and the clay layer thickness above (Ingeominas & Dagma, 2005).


A comparative analysis was carried out by overlapping the liquefiable and non-liquefiable points
obtained from SPT and CPTu tests on the liquefaction hazard map obtained using the Nakamura
methodology (Figure 4). To determine a match percentage four scenarios were analyzed, the
results are shown in Table 7:
a) Complete area. Number of liquefiable SPT and CPTu points in liquefiable areas on the
map, plus number of non-liquefied points in non-liquefied areas on the map.
b) Liquefiable area. Number of liquefiable SPT and CPTu points in liquefiable areas.

c) Non-liquefiable area. Number of non-liquefiable SPT and CPTu points in non-
liquefiable areas on the map
d) Analysis by point. Results comparison obtained at each microtremor recording point,
with the nearest SPT or CPTu result (until to 100 m).

Table 7. Comparative analysis results.

Analysis b) Liquefiable c) Non-liquefiable d) Nearest SPT

a) Complete area
criteria area area or CPTu
Coincidence 73 % 56 % 82 % 61 %

Figure 4. Soil liquefaction hazard microzoning map.


Points with results coincidence

The highest coincidence percentage was evidenced in the non-liquefiable area analysis, which
showed a match of 82%. The lowest coincidence percentage was evidenced in the liquefiable area
analysis which showed a 56% coincidence. This may be due to the low density of conventional
tests within this area (Figure 4) and the shear strain value for liquefaction failure (𝛾𝑓 ), which is
very low. However, this result is conservative, as it extends the potentially liquefiable area.
Therefore, field tests have been programmed to be carried out at the same points where
microtremors were recorded. Results show that using a deformation failure criterion to evaluate
the liquefaction potential in large extensions may be valid, at least as a first approximation.

Points without results coincidence

A special case of results inconsistency was presented around point AB016 (Figure 4). According
to Nakamura methodology this point is liquefiable, but CPTu tests show that the soil at this point
is composed by non-liquefiable soft clays and organic materials. This inconsistency could be due
to the fact that the proposed methodology bases liquefaction evaluation on a deformation failure
criteria, and soft clayey soils can have great deformations during earthquakes.
Other special case is the one presented around point AB025 (Figure 4). In this area the SPT
and CPTu results are inconclusive and further studies are required to study this phenomenon.
Another aspect that may affect the results in the evaluated study area is the clay layer over
potentially liquefiable layers. Research has shown how a clay layer over potentially liquefiable
sands can attenuate the seismic waves, and in turn, the surface response (Bouckovalas, Tsiapas,
Zontanou, & Kalogeraki, 2017).

Final conclusions and recommendations

In general, Nakamura methodology is a good tool to make a liquefaction hazard mapping
of potentially liquefiable soils, considering its low complexity application. This statement was
verified from tests conducted on Aguablanca District in Cali (Colombia), where good match with
conventional field methods was observed. Also, due to its versatility, this methodology could be
very useful to carry out previous studies in areas prone to liquefaction, or in places where there are
not enough funds or the conditions for more robust testing are not available. However, the results
may be inconsistent in soil deposits with non-surface liquefiable layers. Consequently, the correct
results interpretation is conditioned on knowledge of the soil deposit's layers.
In this research the liquefaction failure shear strain (𝛾𝑓 ) was chosen according to the results
reported by Sandoval et al. (Sandoval, Campaña, & Cruz, 2013), nevertheless, the authors will
perform for future research, a sensitivity analysis by varying 𝛾𝑓 into a range, in order to determine
the parameter influence on the delimitation of the liquefiable and non-liquefiable area. Likewise,
authors will study the possible correlation between the Liquefaction Potential Index (LPI) from
conventional field tests (SPT and CPTu) and the shear strain (𝛾) from Nakamura methodology.

Also, it is recommended for future research to evaluate the methodology applicability in
areas where there is not clay layer over potentially liquefiable sands.


This investigation was carried out within the framework of the research project "Evaluation of
Non-Conventional Methods for Determination and Mitigation of Soil Liquefaction Potential" code
11067-710-51485, financed by COLCIENCIAS according to contract FP44842-022-2016. With
the support of the Research Group in Seismic, Wind, Geotechnical and Structural Engineering (G-
7) from Universidad del Valle.


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