Journal cover Journal topic
Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
doi:10.5194/nhess-2016-350
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
25 Nov 2016
Review status
This discussion paper is under review for the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS).
Vulnerability of bridges to scour: insights from an international expert elicitation workshop
Rob Lamb1,2, Willy Aspinall3,4, Henry Odbert4, and Thorsten Wagener5,6 1JBA Trust, South Barn, Skipton, BD23 3AE, UK
2Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, LA1 4YQ, UK
3Aspinall and Associates, UK
4School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
5Civil Engineering, University of Bristol, UK
6Cabot Institute, University of Bristol, UK
Abstract. Scour (localised erosion) during flood events is one of the most important threats to bridges over rivers and estuaries, and has been the cause of numerous bridge failures, with damaging consequences. Mitigation of the risk of bridges being damaged by scour is therefore important for many infrastructure owners, and is supported by industry guidance. Even after mitigation, some residual risk remains, though its extent is difficult to quantify because of the uncertainties inherent in the prediction of scour and the assessment of the scour risk. This paper summarises findings of an international expert workshop on bridge scour risk assessment exploring uncertainties about the vulnerability of bridges to scour. Two specialised structured elicitation methods were applied to explore the factors that experts in the field consider important in assessing scour risk, and to derive pooled expert judgements of bridge failure probabilities conditional on a range of assumed scenarios describing flood event severity, bridge and watercourse types and risk mitigation protocols. The experts' judgements broadly align with industry good practice, but indicate significant uncertainty about quantitative estimates of bridge failure probabilities, reflecting the difficulty in assessing the residual risk of failure. The data and findings presented here could provide useful context for the development of generic scour fragility models, and their associated uncertainties.

Citation: Lamb, R., Aspinall, W., Odbert, H., and Wagener, T.: Vulnerability of bridges to scour: insights from an international expert elicitation workshop, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., doi:10.5194/nhess-2016-350, in review, 2016.
Rob Lamb et al.
Rob Lamb et al.
Rob Lamb et al.

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Short summary
Scour (erosion) during floods can cause bridges to collapse. Modern design and maintenance mitigates the risk, so failures are rare. The residual risk is uncertain, but expert knowledge can help constrain it. We asked 17 experts about scour risk using methods designed to treat judgements alongside other scientific data. The findings identified knowledge gaps about scour processes and suggest wider uncertainty about scour risk than might be inferred from observation, models or experiments alone.
Scour (erosion) during floods can cause bridges to collapse. Modern design and maintenance...
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