Isolating the location of scour-induced stiffness loss in bridges using local modal behaviour

Luke J. Prendergast*, Kenneth Gavin, David Hester

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)
46 Downloads (Pure)


Detecting scour by analysing bridge vibrations is receiving an increasing amount of attention in the literature. Others have considered changes in natural frequency to indicate the presence of scour damage; however, little work has been reported on identifying the location of a scour hole based on vibration measurements. In this paper, a numerical study is carried out using a bespoke vehicle–bridge–soil dynamic interaction model to examine how the first six vibration modes (Eigen frequencies) of a typical integral bridge are affected by scour at different locations. It is found that depending on the location of the scour hole, some modes are much more affected than others in terms of frequency changes. In fact, a clear pattern emerges as to which modes are affected by which scour location. Using this knowledge, the location of a scour hole can potentially be detected on a real bridge. However, recognising that it is not possible to undertake an eigenvalue analysis on an actual bridge, an analysis is performed by collecting acceleration signals from various points on the structure. The bridge is loaded by a realistic vehicle model, incorporating vehicle–bridge interaction effects, which leads to the generation of discrete acceleration signals at various ‘sensor’ locations on the bridge. In this paper, it is found that it is possible to detect the location of a scour hole using a relatively small number of ‘sensors’. However, to achieve this, careful signal processing is necessary and advice on a number of pertinent issues is provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-503
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Civil Structural Health Monitoring
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


  • Accelerometer
  • Bridges
  • Dynamics
  • Scour
  • SHM
  • Vibration


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