Hydrodynamic pressures on rigid walls subjected to cyclic and seismic ground motions

Karim AlKhatib, Youssef M.A. Hashash, Katerina Ziotopoulou, Brian Morales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Seismic design of water retaining structures relies heavily on the response of the retained water to shaking. The water dynamic response has been evaluated by means of analytical, numerical, and experimental approaches. In practice, it is common to use simplified code-based methods to evaluate the added demands imposed by water sloshing. Yet, such methods were developed with an inherent set of assumptions that might limit their application. Alternatively, numerical modeling methods offer a more accurate way of quantifying the water response and have been commonly validated using 1 g shake table experiments. In this study, a unique series of five centrifuge tests was conducted with the goal of investigating the hydrodynamic behavior of water by varying its height and length. Moreover, sine wave and earthquake motions were applied to examine the water response at different types and levels of excitation. Arbitrary Lagrangian-Eulerian finite element models were then developed to reproduce 1 g shake table experiments available in the literature in addition to the centrifuge tests conducted in this study. The results of the numerical simulations as well as the simplified and analytical methods were compared to the experimental measurements, in terms of free surface elevation and hydrodynamic pressures, to evaluate their applicability and limitations. The comparison showed that the numerical models were able to reasonably capture the water response of all configurations both under earthquake and sine wave motions. The analytical solutions performed well except for cases with resonance under harmonic motions. As for the simplified methods, they provided acceptable results for the peak responses under earthquake motions. However, under sine wave motions, where convective sloshing is significant, they underpredict the response. Also, beyond peak ground accelerations of 0.5 g., a mild nonlinear increase in peak dynamic pressures was measured which deviates from assumed linear response in the simplified methods. The study confirmed the reliability of numerical models in capturing water dynamic responses, demonstrating their broad applicability for use in complex problems of fluid-structure-soil interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-302
Number of pages24
JournalEarthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • arbitrary Lagrangian-Eulerian
  • centrifuge
  • hydrodynamics
  • retaining structures
  • water sloshing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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