Numerical Modeling of Tsunami-induced Hydrodynamic Forces on Free-standing Structures Using the SPH Method

Title: Numerical Modeling of Tsunami-induced Hydrodynamic Forces on Free-standing Structures Using the SPH Method
Authors: St-Germain, Philippe
Date: 2012
Abstract: Tsunamis are among the most terrifying and complex physical phenomena potentially affecting almost all coastal regions of the Earth. Tsunami waves propagate in the ocean over thousands of kilometres away from their generating source at considerable speeds. Among several other tsunamis that occurred during the past decade, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and the 2011 Tohoku Tsunami in Japan, considered to be the deadliest and costliest natural disasters in the history of mankind, respectively, have hit wide stretches of densely populated coastal areas. During these major events, severe destruction of inland structures resulted from the action of extreme hydrodynamic forces induced by tsunami flooding. Subsequent field surveys in which researchers from the University of Ottawa participated ultimately revealed that, in contrast to seismic forces, such hydrodynamic forces are not taken into proper consideration when designing buildings for tsunami prone areas. In view of these limitations, a novel interdisciplinary hydraulic-structural engineering research program was initiated at the University of Ottawa, in cooperation with the Canadian Hydraulic Centre of the National Research Council, to help develop guidelines for the sound design of nearshore structures located in such areas. The present study aims to simulate the physical laboratory experiments performed within the aforementioned research program using a single-phase three-dimensional weakly compressible Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) numerical model. These experiments consist in the violent impact of rapidly advancing tsunami-like hydraulic bores with individual slender structural elements. Such bores are emulated based on the classic dam-break problem. The quantitatively compared measurements include the time-history of the net base horizontal force and of the pressure distribution acting on columns of square and circular cross-sections, as well as flow characteristics such as bore-front velocity and water surface elevation. Good agreement was obtained. Results show that the magnitude and duration of the impulsive force at initial bore impact depend on the degree of entrapped air in the bore-front. The latter was found to increase considerably if the bed of the experimental flume is covered with a thin water layer of even just a few millimetres. In order to avoid large fluctuations in the pressure field and to obtain accurate simulations of the hydrodynamic forces, a Riemann solver-based formulation of the SPH method is utilized. However, this formulation induces excessive numerical diffusion, as sudden and large water surface deformations, such as splashing at initial bore impact, are less accurately reproduced. To investigate this particular issue, the small-scale physical experiment of Kleefsman et al. (2005) is also considered and modeled. Lastly, taking full advantage of the validated numerical model to better understand the underlying flow dynamics, the influence of the experimental test geometry and of the bed condition (i.e. dry vs. wet) is investigated. Numerical results show that when a bore propagates over a wet bed, its front is both deeper and steeper and it also has a lower velocity compared to when it propagates over a dry bed. These differences significantly affect the pressure distributions and resulting hydrodynamic forces acting on impacted structures.
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