The effects of 180 years of aging on the physical and seismic properties of partially saturated sands

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Contact creep
Rock physics
Sand aging
Constraining how the physical properties and seismic responses of recently deposited sands change with time is important for understanding earthquake site response, subsurface fluid flow, and early stages of lithification. Currently, however, there is no detailed (cm-scale) assessment of how sand's physical properties and associated seismic velocities evolve over the first two centuries after deposition. Here, we integrate sedimentation rates with seismic velocity and sediment physical properties data to assess how the vadose zone sands at Port Royal Beach, Jamaica, change within 180 years after deposition. We show that compressional and shear wave velocities increase with sediment age, whereas porosity, grain size, sorting, mineralogy, and cementation fraction remain relatively unchanged during the same period. Rock physics models (constrained by the measured physical properties) predict constant seismic velocities at all sites regardless of sediment age, though misfits between modeled and observed velocities increase with sediment age. We explain these misfits by proposing that shallow sands undergo microstructural grain reorganization that leads to a more uniform distribution of grain contact forces with time. Our results imply that beach sands undergo a previously undocumented lithification process that occurs before compaction.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2021. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 126(6), (2021): e2020JB021341,
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Wright, V., & Hornbach, M. (2021). The effects of 180 years of aging on the physical and seismic properties of partially saturated sands. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 126(6), e2020JB021341.
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