Many types of liquefaction-related features (sand blows, fissures, lateral spreads, dikes, and sills) have been induced by earthquakes in coastal South Carolina and in the New Madrid seismic zone in the Central United States. In addition, abundant features of unknown and nonseismic origin are present. Geologic criteria for interpreting an earthquake origin in these areas are illustrated in practical applications; these criteria can be used to determine the origin of liquefaction features in many other geographic and geologic settings.
In both coastal South Carolina and the New Madrid seismic zone, the earthquake-induced liquefaction features generally originated in clean sand deposits that contain no or few intercalated silt or clay-rich strata. The local geologic setting is a major influence on both development and surface expression of sand blows. Major factors controlling sand-blow formation include the thickness and physical properties of the deposits above the source sands, and these relationships are illustrated by comparing sand blows found in coastal South Carolina (in marine deposits) with sand blows found in the New Madrid seismic zone (in fluvial deposits). In coastal South Carolina, the surface stratum is typically a thin (about 1 m) soil that is weakly cemented with humate, and the sand blows are expressed as craters surrounded by a thin sheet of sand; in the New Madrid seismic zone the surface stratum generally is a clay-rich deposit ranging in thickness from 2 to 10 m, in which case sand blows characteristically are expressed as sand mounded above the original ground surface.
Recognition of the various features described in this paper, and identification of the most probable origin for each, provides a set of important tools for understanding paleoseismicity in areas such as the Central and Eastern United States where faults are not exposed for study and strong seismic activity is infrequent.