A framework for probabilistic assessment of clear-water scour around bridge piers

Enrico Tubaldi, Lorenzo Macorini, Bassam A. Izzuddin, Costantino Manes, Francesco Laio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)
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Scouring at the base of bridge piers is the major cause of bridge collapses worldwide. Computing the scour risk of bridge foundations is therefore key for a correct management and allocation of resources for maintenance and scour mitigation works. Existing risk-assessment models compute the vulnerability of bridge foundations to scour by comparing the equilibrium scour depth associated with peak-flow discharges characterized by a given return period (usually of 100–200 years) with the critical foundation depth of the bridge. This approach neglects completely the history-dependent and time-dependent nature of scour. Yet, it is well known that bridge collapses can often be induced by the accumulation of scour during multiple flood events. This study aims at developing a novel probabilistic framework for the computation of bridge-pier vulnerability to scour using a Markovian approach to account for memory effects in scour development. The paper focuses on the case of local pier scour occurring in clear-water conditions whereby cumulative effects are significant, well understood and known to be the cause of recent reported bridge collapses. A simplified numerical example consisting of an idealised bridge pier in a canal is considered to clarify the application of the proposed framework and to shed light on the effects of some assumptions introduced to simplify the probabilistic scour assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-22
Number of pages12
JournalStructural Safety
Early online date3 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2017


  • bridges
  • flood occurrence
  • Markov process
  • risk assessment
  • scour


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