Lessons Learned Regarding Seismic Deformation Analyses of Embankment Dams from Re-Evaluation of the Upper and Lower San Fernando Dams Performance Case Histories






Analyses of expected seismic performance of earthen dams subject to potential liquefaction hazard are routinely performed for high hazard dams. The State of Practice has increasingly evolved from simplified methods to the use of fully-coupled seismic pore pressure generation and nonlinear seismic deformation analyses (NDA) using either finite difference or finite element analysis frameworks. To evaluate the accuracy and reliability of these NDA methods, the Upper and Lower San Fernando Dams field performance case histories from the 1971 San Fernando earthquake were re-analyzed in these current studies by means of fully nonlinear seismic deformation analyses, using (1) a suite of four analytical models, (2) a suite of three cyclic pore pressure generation relationships, and (3) a suite of three post-liquefaction residual strength relationships. The results of these analyses have shown that a successful implementation of non-linear deformation analyses would involve (1) how cyclic pore pressure generation and liquefaction triggering is accounted for in different constitutive modeling approaches, (2) treatment of critical state and dilatant behaviors in soils during shaking, (3) evaluation and implementation of post-liquefaction residual strength (Sr), (4) modeling of potential strain softening of the non-liquefiable (e.g. clayey) soil layers, (5) continuation of the analyses through post-shaking conditions, (6) dealing with numerical difficulties associated with very large embankment displacements within the continuum analysis framework, and (7) suitable engineering assessment and interpretation of the analytical results. Failure to suitably accomplish any of these can result in potentially misleading and/or potentially unconservative findings. When these are suitably accomplished, seismic deformation analyses were found to be capable of producing excellent engineering insights and a good basis for engineering decision making and/or mitigation design.

Five Learning Objectives of This Course:

  • Seismic nonlinear deformation analyses using numerical modeling can provide useful and reliable engineering results.
  • Accomplishing reliable results requires attention to a number of characterizations, modeling, and analysis details.
  • Modeling of non-liquefiable layers should also incorporate strain softening effects in earthquake and post-earthquake analyses.
  • Selection of appropriate combinations of liquefaction triggering, post-liquefaction strengths, and constitutive models is important to achieve reliable engineering results.
  • The common continuum analysis framework (e.g. FLAC) also has intrinsic limitations, and suitable engineering interpretation is also needed.

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  • Member Rate: $99
  • Non-Member Rate: $130

This course qualifies for 2 PDHs.

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