Stochastic analysis of unsaturated seepage through randomly heterogeneous earth embankments

Le, T.M.H., Gallipoli, D., Sanchez, M. and Wheeler, S.J. (2012) Stochastic analysis of unsaturated seepage through randomly heterogeneous earth embankments. International Journal for Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics, 36(8), pp. 1056-1076. (doi: 10.1002/nag.1047)

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Spatial variability of material properties is inherent in both natural soil deposits and earth structures, yet it is often ignored during geotechnical design. With the objective of developing novel methods for assessing the effects of soil variability on groundwater flow, this study presents a stochastic finite element model of seepage through a flood defense embankment with randomly heterogeneous material properties. Stochastic modeling is undertaken by means of a Monte Carlo simulation which involves a large number of finite element analyses, each with randomly varied porosity at element level, which leads to a corresponding random variation of both permeability and water retention properties across the embankment domain. This provides a statistical distribution of responses, such as total flow rate and time to reach steady state, instead of a single deterministic result as in conventional studies of seepage through unsaturated heterogeneous soils. As the degree of heterogeneity increases, water tends to flow along the most permeable paths inside the soil mass, resulting in an irregular shape of the predicted wetting fronts and pore pressure contours. The mean and standard deviation of the computed quantities strongly depend on the statistics of the input porosity field. Simulations are also conducted to compare the statistical variation of flow rate with and without dependency of the water retention curve on porosity. With recent growth in computer speed, stochastic finite element models based on the Monte Carlo approach can become a powerful design tool, especially if a quantitative assessment of geotechnical risks is required.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Wheeler, Professor Simon and Gallipoli, Dr Domenico
Authors: Le, T.M.H., Gallipoli, D., Sanchez, M., and Wheeler, S.J.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Infrastructure and Environment
Journal Name:International Journal for Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics
Published Online:13 May 2011

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