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Desiccation cracking at field scale on a vegetated infrastructure embankment

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Zelong YuORCiD, Oboho Eminue, Dr Ross Stirling, Dr Colin DavieORCiD, Professor Stephanie Glendinning



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Institution of Civil Engineers, 2021.

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This paper presents a desiccation crack monitoring campaign conducted on a full-scale, vegetated infrastructure embankment subjected to one-year of seasonally variable weather. The field survey involved direct measurement of naturally developed, annually reoccuring cracks in a heavily instrumented, clay fill embankment (BIONICS, Newcastle University). Transient crack morphology was captured in terms of opening width, length and depth, in addition to meteorological and near-surface soil hydrological conditions. In order to assess any correlation between crack development and weather-driven changes in near surface soil conditions, the volume of cracks was estimated using an empirically derived equation. This work identified crack behaviour in four stages: initiation, expansion, contraction and closure. These stages and the distribution of cracks on the slope are closely related to prevailing atmospheric conditions, namely wind direction, relative humidity, precipitation and potential evapotranspiration. These ultimately govern the soil hydrological conditions in the near-surface, as manifested in the presented matric potential and volumetric water content data. Linearly descrete cracks are shown to form under such conditions in contrary to the polygonal patterns typically reported under laboratory conditions. Crack length growth terminates prior to full volumetric maturation with crack depth dominating the dynamic response regardless of overall crack size.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Yu Z, Eminue O.O, Stirling R, Davie C, Glendinning S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Géotechnique Letters

Year: 2021

Volume: 11

Issue: 1

Pages: 1-21

Print publication date: 01/03/2021

Online publication date: 13/01/2021

Acceptance date: 08/01/2021

Date deposited: 15/02/2021

ISSN (electronic): 2045-2543

Publisher: Institution of Civil Engineers


DOI: 10.1680/jgele.20.00108


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