Experimental and computational investigation of local scour around bridge piers

Ali Khosronejad, Seokkoo Kang, Fotis Sotiropoulos

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172 Scopus citations


Experiments and numerical simulations are carried out to study clear-water scour around three bridge piers with cylindrical, square, and diamond cross-sectional shape, respectively. To handle movable-bed channels with embedded hydraulic structures, the fluid-structure interaction curvilinear immersed boundary (FSI-CURVIB) method is employed. The hydrodynamic model solves the unsteady Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes (URANS) equations closed with the k- ω turbulence model using a second-order accurate fractional step method. Bed erosion is simulated by solving the sediment continuity equation in the bed-load layer using a second-order accurate unstructured, finite-volume formulation with a sand-slide, bed-slope-limiting algorithm. Grid sensitivity studies are carried out to investigate the effect of grid resolution on the predictive capability of the model. Comparisons of the simulations with the experimental data show that for all three cases the agreement is reasonable. A major finding of this work, however, is that the predictive capability of the URANS morphodynamic model improves dramatically for the diamond shape pier for which sediment transport is driven primarily by the shear layers shed from the pier sharp edges. For piers with blunt leading edge, on the other hand, as the circular and square shapes, the URANS model cannot resolve the energetic horseshoe vortex system at the pier/bed junction and thus significantly underpredicts both the scour depth at the nose of the pier and the rate of scour growth. It is also shown that ad hoc empirical corrections that modify the calculated critical bed shear stress to enhance scour rate in the pier leading edge need to be applied with caution as their predictive capabilities are not universal but rather depend on the pier shape and the region of the flow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-85
Number of pages13
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
StatePublished - Mar 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NSF Grants EAR-0120914 (as part of the National Center for Earth-Surface Dynamics) and EAR-0738726, National Cooperative Highway Research Program Grant NCHRP-HR 24-33, and a Grant from Yonsei University, South Korea, as part of the ECORIVER21 project. Computational resources were provided by the University of Minnesota Supercomputing Institute.


  • Bridge pier
  • Immersed boundary method
  • Local scour
  • Numerical modeling
  • Sediment transport
  • Turbulent flow


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