Quantification of modelling uncertainties in bridge scour risk assessment under multiple flood events

Pizarro, Alonso and Tubaldi, Enrico (2019) Quantification of modelling uncertainties in bridge scour risk assessment under multiple flood events. Geosciences, 9 (10). 445. ISSN 2076-3263 (https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences9100445)

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Local scour is a dynamic process evolving during the lifetime of bridges as a result of the changes in hydrologic and hydraulic conditions. Current approaches for scour risk assessment are generally based on the evaluation of the equilibrium scour depth for a flood event with a prefixed return period. The temporal evolution of the bridge-pier scour process is usually disregarded, by assuming that equilibrium conditions are always attained, regardless of the flood properties. However, recent studies have highlighted the importance of accounting for the contribution of multiple flood events and their exact hydrograph shape. This study aims at quantifying the epistemic uncertainty related to the modelling of the temporal evolution of scour under multiple consecutive flood events in clear-water conditions. A simple numerical case study is considered, using a Markovian framework to describe probabilistically the progression of scour. Well-known time-dependent scour models are used to estimate the temporal evolution of the scour-depth under each flood hydrograph, and the scour estimates are compared with those obtained using widely employed equilibrium scour formulas. Results show that the expected scour depth is influenced by the parameters used to describe the flood hydrograph and that the probability distribution of the scour depth is highly sensitive to the choice of the time-dependent scour model. The uncertainty in the scour estimation stemming from the formula adopted in this study for describing the temporal evolution of the scour depth can be higher than those related to the formula adopted for equilibrium scour.