Ambiguities in the use of the term liquefaction and in defining the relation between liquefaction and ground failure have led to encumbered communication between workers in various fields and between specialists in the same field, and the possibility that evaluations of liquefaction potential could be misinterpreted or misapplied. Explicit definitions of liquefaction and related concepts are proposed herein. These definitions, based on observed laboratory behavior, are then used to clarify the relation between liquefaction and ground failure.
Soil liquefaction is defined as the transformation of a granular material from a solid into a liquefied state as a consequence of increased pore-water pressures. This definition avoids confusion between liquefaction and possible flow-failure conditions after liquefaction. Flow-failure conditions are divided into two types: (1) unlimited flow if pore-pressure reductions caused by dilatancy during flow deformation are not sufficient to solidify the material and thus arrest flow, and (2) limited flow if they are sufficient to solidify the material after a finite deformation. After liquefaction in the field, unlimited flow commonly leads to flow landslides, whereas limited flow leads at most to lateral-spreading landslides. Quick-condition failures such as loss of bearing capacity form a third type of ground failure associated with liquefaction.