Probability of exceedance estimates for scour depth around bridge piers

Laura C. Bolduc, Paolo Gardoni, Jean Louis Briaud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scour at a bridge pier is the formation of a hole around the pier due to the erosion of soil by flowing water; this hole in the soil reduces the carrying capacity of the foundation and the pier. Excessive scour can cause a bridge pier to fail without warning. Current predictions of the depth of the scour hole around a bridge pier are based on deterministic models. This paper considers two alternative deterministic models to predict scour depth. For each deterministic model, a corresponding probabilistic model is constructed using a Bayesian statistical approach and available field and experimental data. The developed probabilistic models account for the estimated bias in the deterministic models and for the model uncertainty. Parameters from both prediction models are compared to determine their accuracy. The developed probabilistic models are used to estimate the probability of exceedance of scour depth around bridge piers. The method is demonstrated on an example bridge pier. The paper addresses model uncertainties for given hydrologic variables. Hydrologic uncertainties have been presented in a separate paper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-184
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Bridges, piers
  • Estimation
  • Probability
  • Scour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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