Scour Hole Influence on Turbulent Flow Field around Complex Bridge Piers

A. A. Beheshti, B. Ataie-Ashtiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Experimental results of detailed flow measurements using an Acoustic-Doppler Velocimeter (ADV) around a complex bridge pier (CBP) are presented. The pier consists of a column, a pile cap (PC) and a 2×4 pile group. The time-averaged velocities, turbulence intensities, and Reynolds stresses are studied and presented at different horizontal and vertical planes. Streamlines obtained from the velocity fields are used to show the complexity of the flow around the pier. It is shown that the main feature of the flow responsible for the entrainment of the bed sediments is a contracted (pressurized) flow below the PC toward the piles. A deflected flow around the PC and a strong down-flow along its sides are observed and have been measured. It is shown that these flow patterns also cause sediment entrainment. Vortex flow behind the PC and amplification of turbulence intensity along its sides near the downstream region can be other reasons for the scour hole (SH) development. Turbulence intensities and Reynolds shear stresses are presented and discussed. A comparison is made between the flow field measured with the equilibrium SH and that measured on the fixed flat-bed. The results show that the flow field around the PC is considerably influenced by the development of the SH. The extent of the wake region at the rear of the PC is about 1.4 times larger for the fixed bed (FB) than for the scoured bed (SB). Moreover, the size of the core of high turbulent kinetic energy K, as well as the maximum values of K behind the column for the FB case is larger than that of the SB case. When a scour hole develops, the flow below the PC around the piles is considered to be the main cause of the scour. This is the first time that these observations about the flow and turbulence field around a complex bridge pier are reported and analyzed. In addition to improving the understanding of the flow structure, the present detailed measurements can also be used for benchmarking and verification of numerical models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-474
Number of pages24
JournalFlow, Turbulence and Combustion
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Bridge foundation
  • Complex pier
  • Physical modeling
  • Scour hole
  • Turbulent flow


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