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Development of a Multi-Phase Numerical Modeling Approach for Hydromechanical Behavior of Clay Embankments Subject to Weather-Driven Deterioration

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Peter Helm, Dr Paul Hughes, Dr Ross Stirling, Professor Stephanie Glendinning



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Clay embankments used for road, rail and, flood defense infrastructure experience a suite of weather-driven deterioration processes that lead to a progressive loss of hydromechanical performance: micro-scale deformation (e.g., aggregation and desiccation), changes in soil-water retention, loss of strength, and macro-scale deformation. The objective of this study was to develop a numerical modeling approach to simulate the construction and long-term, weather-driven hydromechanical behavior of clay embankments. Subroutines within a numerical modeling package were developed to capture deterioration processes: (1) strength reduction due to wet-dry cycles; (2) bimodality of the near-surface hydraulic behavior; (3) soil-water and soil-gas retentivity functions considering void ratio dependency; and (4) hydraulic and gas conductivity functions considering void ratio dependency. Uniquely, the modeling approach was comprehensively validated using laboratory tests and nine years of field measurements from a full-scale embankment. The modeling approach captured the variation of near-surface soil moisture and matric suction over the monitored period in response to weather cycles. Further, the developed model approach could successfully simulate weather-driven deterioration processes in clay embankments. The model predictions manifested the ability of the modeling approach in capturing deterioration features such as irrecoverable increase in void ratio and hydraulic permeability near surface. The developed and validated numerical modeling approach enables forecasting of the long-term performance of clay embankments under a range of projected climate conditions.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Morsy A, Helm P, El-Hamalawi A, Smith A, Hughes P, Stirling R, Dijkstra T, Dixon N, Glendinning S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering

Year: 2023

Volume: 149

Issue: 8

Print publication date: 01/08/2023

Online publication date: 07/06/2023

Acceptance date: 15/02/2023

Date deposited: 20/02/2023

ISSN (print): 1090-0241

ISSN (electronic): 1943-5606

Publisher: American Society of Civil Engineers


DOI: 10.1061/JGGEFK.GTENG-11213

ePrints DOI: 10.57711/wst8-ax41


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