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Hydrodynamic Modeling of Dam-Reservoir

Response during Earthquakes

Ismail Aydin1 and Ender Demirel2

Abstract: A computational model is developed to analyze the hydrodynamic behavior of dam reservoirs during earthquakes. The math-
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ematical model is based on the solution of two-dimensional (2D) Navier-Stokes equations in a vertical, semi-infinite domain truncated by a
far-end boundary condition. A depth integrated continuity equation is used to track the deforming free-surface and ensure global mass
conservation. A combination of Sommerfeld nonreflecting boundary and dissipation zone methods is implemented at the far end of the
reservoir to prevent any back-reflections of pressure and free-surface waves. Nondimensionalized equations are used to compare contribu-
tions of each type of force to the development of the hydrodynamic pressure field and to the maximum run-up of free-surface waves on the
dam face. Sinusoidal ground accelerations are applied to an idealized dam-reservoir system to analyze the system response. It is observed that
the acoustic wave equation solution gives satisfactory results for the pressure field unless the contributions from the free-surface waves
become significant at low reservoir depths. The surface wave run-up on the dam face is found to depend on the ground velocity, oscillation
period, and the water depth. On the basis of numerical experiments, an expression for the wave run-up to predict conditions of overtopping
from probable earthquake characteristics is proposed. DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)EM.1943-7889.0000322. © 2012 American Society of Civil
CE Database subject headings: Wave runup; Hydrodynamic pressure; Earthquakes; Dam safety; Free surfaces; Reservoirs.
Author keywords: Wave run-up; Hydrodynamic pressure; Earthquakes; Dam safety; Free-surfaces; Reservoirs; Resonance.

Introduction increase in computer power in the last two decades. Hung and
Wang (1987) analyzed earthquake excited dam-reservoir systems,
Earthquakes can be an unsparing threat for man-made structures if solving dimensionless Navier-Stokes equations and the pressure
possible effects are not perceived in the analysis and design stages. equation by finite difference method using kinematic boundary
Immediate consequences of an earthquake for a dam-reservoir sys- condition to track the free-surface with a boundary mapping tech-
tem can be a significant transient change in water pressure distri- nique. The apparent conclusion was that the viscous effects are
butions attributable to hydrodynamic effects and creation of surface negligible in hydrodynamic analysis of pressure field in dam
waves that may attack reservoir boundaries including the dam face. reservoirs. Hung and Chen (1990) computed the hydrodynamic
Landslides into the reservoir may also be provoked by the com- pressures and water rise in the reservoir during the El Centro Earth-
bined action of ground accelerations and subsequent hydrodynamic quake, solving Euler equations by a finite element method. Chen
pressure shocks. (1994) investigated the hydrodynamic pressures and water rise in
Earthquake-induced hydrodynamic pressures in dam reservoirs a reservoir with a sloping bottom. Chen et al. (1999) developed a
were first analyzed by Westergaard (1933), who obtained analytical three-dimensional (3D) computational model coupling Euler equa-
formulas for hydrodynamic pressures on vertical rigid dams with tions and incompressible continuity equations to compute the
semi-infinite reservoirs subjected to harmonic motion. Hydrody- hydrodynamic pressures in a dam-reservoir system having an arbi-
namic pressure is obtained from the acoustic pressure equation trary geometry. They showed that the hydrodynamic effects are
derived by neglecting nonlinear convective and free-surface effects independent of reservoir width when the reservoir is wider than
in the reservoir assuming that displacements of the fluid particles four times the water depth.
are small. Effect of water compressibility on pressure distribution There are several methods to track the free-surface position in
is commonly investigated using such simplified models (Chopra unsteady flows. All surface tracking algorithms consider partially
1967; Fok and Chopra 1986, 1987). filled surface cells to precisely locate the free-surface. Approxima-
A second category of research including nonlinear convective tions used for flow variables in the partially filled computational
and free-surface effects became increasingly popular with the rapid cells may cause nonphysical variation of total fluid volume in time
as reported in the literature (Aulisa et al. 2003; Kleefsman et al.
Professor, Dept. of Civil Engineering, Middle East Technical Univ., 2005; Yang et al. 2006; Demirel and Aydin 2007; Wang et al. 2007;
Ankara 06531, Turkey (corresponding author). E-mail: ismaydin@ Demirel 2008). Special care is required to control the total volume changes in the computational domain. Volume sources or sinks
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Civil Engineering, Eskisehir Osmangazi introduced by numerical schemes are usually so small that they
Univ., Eskisehir 26480, Turkey. E-mail: cannot be noticed if not monitored purposely and may not affect
Note. This manuscript was submitted on May 12, 2010; approved on
August 1, 2011; published online on August 3, 2011. Discussion period
other flow parameters in short-duration simulations. If the simula-
open until July 1, 2012; separate discussions must be submitted for indi- tions are continued for sufficiently long durations, the cumulative
vidual papers. This paper is part of the Journal of Engineering Mechanics, change in total fluid volume in the computational domain can be
Vol. 138, No. 2, February 1, 2012. ©ASCE, ISSN 0733-9399/2012/2-164– significant, leading to permanent water depth variations. Detailed
174/$25.00. discussions on total volume conserving formulations are available


J. Eng. Mech., 2012, 138(2): 164-174

in Casulli (1999) and Casulli and Zanolli (2002). The depth inte-
grated continuity (DIC) equation has been shown to be successful
and efficient in free-surface flow simulations to maintain exact
conservation of total fluid volume independent of simulation
durations (Casulli 1999; Casulli and Zanolli 2002; Demirel and
Aydin 2007).
In numerical simulations of large fluid bodies, it is often neces-
sary to introduce artificial boundaries at distances sufficiently far
from the region of interest to reduce the size of the computational
domain and save computer memory. Appropriate boundary condi-
tions for velocity and pressure must be devised for an open
boundary at the far end of the computational domain. In acoustic
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Fig. 1. Definition sketch of dam-reservoir system

pressure equation solutions, the pressure boundary condition at the
far end boundary was investigated by Sharan (1985, 1987), Yang
et al. (1993), Küçükarslan (2005), and Maity (2005). In free-surface Z Z
1 ∂
flows, surface waves introduce additional complexity in the far end. ðu þ ug Þd∀ þ u~V · d~
St ∂t
Boundary conditions applied at the far end are required to prevent Z Z
any reflections back into the flow field to avoid nonphysical inter- 1 ∂p 1 ~ · d~
¼ 2 d∀ þ ∇u A ð1Þ
actions between the computational boundary and the internal sol- Fr CV ∂x Re CS
ution domain while allowing the surface waves to move freely out Z Z
1 ∂
of the computational domain. At the same time, nonphysical flows ðw þ wg Þd∀ þ V · d~
w~ A
through the far-end boundary in or out of the computational domain St ∂t CV CS
Z   Z
should be prevented to avoid cumulative changes in total fluid vol- 1 ∂p 1
¼ 2 þ 1 d∀ þ ∇~w · d~
A ð2Þ
ume in the domain and subsequent variations of water depth. This Fr CV ∂z Re CS
latter property is more important for accurate predictions of surface
wave characteristics such as maximum wave run-up on the in which all variables are dimensionless. The space coordinates
dam face. x and z are nondimensionalized by the reservoir depth H; fluid
In the Navier-Stokes solutions of earthquake-excited dam- velocities u and w and the ground velocities ug and wg are nondi-
reservoir problems, a nonreflecting boundary condition for the mensionalized by the maximum ground velocity V m ; pressure p is
velocity components must be utilized in addition to pressure at nondimensionalized by the hydrostatic pressure on the bottom
the far end of the reservoir to prevent the water surface and pressure ρgH; and time t is nondimensionalized by the oscillation period
waves reflecting from the boundary into the computational domain. T of the ground motion. Subscript CV = control volume; CS =
control surfaces; d~
A = area element normal to the control surface
Demirel and Aydin (2010) applied the combination of Sommerfeld
pointing out of the control volume; and ∇ = del operator. The
boundary and dissipation zone at the far end of the reservoir
dimensionless numbers appearing in the equations are the Strouhal
and showed that the combination of Sommerfeld boundary and
number St , the Froude number Fr and the Reynolds number Re
dissipation zone can effectively prevent reflections and eliminate defined as
cumulative changes in total fluid volume in the domain.
In the present study, a finite volume method is applied to a V mT Vm ρV m H
St ¼ ; Fr ¼ pffiffiffiffiffiffi
ffi; Re ¼ ð3Þ
dam-reservoir system to compute the velocity field, pressure field, H gH μ
and water surface waves. Earthquake-excited nonlinear hydrody-
namic pressures and the maximum rise of water surface near in which g = gravitational acceleration; μ = dynamic viscosity; and
the dam face are the major parameters of interest in the analysis. ρ = fluid density. Ground velocities are included in the momentum
A computer code named NASSLARD (Navier-Stokes Solver for equations to represent earthquake excitations in dam-reservoir
Large Domains) developed by Demirel and Aydin (2010) for analysis. The computational domain and the grid system are as-
unsteady free-surface flows in large spatial domains is used to sumed to move with the ground. The velocity vector ~ V is defined
relative to the moving ground. The compressibility terms in the
obtain the numerical solutions. A search for appropriate domain
momentum equations are not included in the analysis because they
length and grid resolution is conducted after preliminary investiga-
are found, in the preliminary studies, to be at least six orders of
tions on relative significances of each term in the governing equa-
magnitude smaller than the other terms in the equations.
tions over space and time domains. A survey of relevant The continuity equation is simplified for weakly compressible
dimensionless numbers that can help presentation and formulation fluid by dropping the spatial variations of density because they are
of the reservoir response is also presented. For the sake of com- negligible in dam-reservoir hydrodynamics. An equation of state is
pleteness, the mathematical model and the numerical solution pro- applied to represent the density variations with pressure through the
cedures are also described. definition of acoustic velocity. The time variation of density is
linked to pressure variations, and the continuity is recast to be
solved for the pressure field:
Governing Equations and Nondimensionalization Z Z
1 ∂
 pd∀ ¼ V · d~
~ A ð4Þ
The Navier-Stokes equations are nondimensionalized by the St F2a ∂t CV CS
commonly used scale parameters to identify the well known
dimensionless numbers in fluid flow. The momentum equations and
for 2D flows in a vertical plane (Fig. 1) integrated over a control Fa ¼ pffiffiffiffiffiffi
ffi ð5Þ
volume are written as gH


J. Eng. Mech., 2012, 138(2): 164-174

in which as (¼ 1;438 m=s) = acoustic velocity in water. The dimen- in which n = time level; Δt = time step; Δx and Δz = mesh
sionless number, Fa , is the ratio of the propagation speed of the sizes; Dif and Con = diffusive and convective fluxes; and
pressure waves to the free-surface waves in the form of Froude ax = dimensionless horizontal ground acceleration obtained by dif-
number. ferentiating Eq. (7) with respect to time. For the sake of simplicity
Computational domain is simplified as a 2D rectangular plane in coding, the expressions evaluated at the nth time level are col-
with the dam body represented by a vertical solid boundary on the lected in F and G terms. Appropriate control volumes are selected
left face, horizontal reservoir bottom and a vertical far-end boun- for each dependent variable to utilize the advantage of a staggered
dary on the right face (Fig. 1). The dam surface and the reservoir grid system (Fig. 2). Second-order approximations are used for
bottom are assumed to move as a rigid body during the earthquake spatial discretization of convective and diffusive terms. Discretized
excitations. The water surface at the top is free to form surface form of the Poisson equation for pressure is obtained by substitut-
waves attributable to earthquake accelerations, and therefore loca- ing Eqs. (8) and (9) into Eq. (12):
tion of the free-surface is to be traced as function of time by a
i;j  piþ1;j
pnþ1 i1;j  pi;j i;j  pi;jþ1
pnþ1 nþ1
pnþ1 nþ1
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suitable algorithm. An accurate and efficient method is to use

depth-integrated continuity (DIC) assuming that the water depth Δxi Δxiþ1=2 Δxi Δxi1=2 Δzj Δzjþ1=2
h is a single valued function of horizontal coordinates. The DIC
i;j1  pi;j
pnþ1 nþ1
for global volume conservation in the computational domain is  þ 2
written as Δzj Δzj1=2 φ
1 ∂h ∂ h ¼ RHSi;j ð13Þ
þ udz ¼ 0 ð6Þ
St ∂t ∂x 0
in which
Eqs. (1), (2), (4), and (6) provide a mathematical model for inves- F2 r F ni;j  F ni1;j Gni;j  Gni;j1 pni;j
tigation of dam-reservoir response during earthquakes. RHSi;j ¼ þ  2 ð14Þ
St Δt Δxi Δzj φ
Recorded earthquake excitations exhibit oscillatory character
and can be expressed as superposition of sinusoidal waves at dif- and
ferent frequencies. Spectral analysis can be used to describe the
St Fa Δt
highest energy containing oscillation components and their charac- φ¼ ð15Þ
teristics. Sinusoidal ground oscillations are considered in the Fr
present study to perform a systematic analysis of dam-reservoir Discretized momentum Eqs. (8) and (9) and the pressure
hydrodynamics and a parametric study of the system response. Poisson Eq. (13) are solved sequentially by marching in time. The
Horizontal ground velocity is defined as sine function of time discretized form of Eq. (6) for a control volume defined as a vertical
ug ðtÞ ¼ sinð2πtÞ ð7Þ water column extending from the bottom to the free-surface can be
written as
in which ug and t are dimensionless as described before. Although
it is included in the formulation, the vertical ground velocity com- hnþ1
i ¼ hni  St Δt½ðqnþ1
iþ1=2  qi1=2 Þ=Δxi 
ponent wg is set to zero in the present study because it has no
contribution to formation of surface waves. in which q = volume fluxes on vertical faces of the water column
that are evaluated directly by integrating velocities on the cell faces.
In the numerical solution, location of the free-surface must be
Numerical Solution followed by an appropriate algorithm classifying the computational
cells as fluid-filled cells, empty cells, and partially filled (free-
The numerical model is based on the finite volume method applied surface) cells. When applying any numerical procedure on a com-
to the governing equations [Eqs. (1), (2), (4), and (6)]. Discretiza- putational cell, four neighbors, namely, left, right, up, and down,
tion and pressure formulation follows the procedure described by contiguous cells must be identified. Extrapolation techniques are
Griebel et al. (1998)
 nþ1 nþ1 
St Δt pi;j  piþ1;j
unþ1 ¼ F n
þ ð8Þ
i;j i;j
F2r Δxiþ1=2
 nþ1 nþ1 
St Δt pi;j  pi;jþ1
i;j ¼ Gi;j þ
wnþ1 ð9Þ
F2r Δzjþ1=2
F ni;j ¼ uni;j þ Δt St ðDifuÞni;j  ðConuÞni;j ðΔxiþ1=2 Δzj Þ ax
1 St
Gi;j ¼ wi;j þ Δt St
n n ðDifwÞi;j ðConwÞi;j ðΔxi Δzjþ1=2 Þ 2
n n
Re Fr

1 pi;j  pni;j
 ðΔxi Δzj Þ ¼ ðunþ1
i;j  ui1;j ÞΔzj
St F2a Δt
þ ðwnþ1
i;j  wi;j1 ÞΔxi
ð12Þ Fig. 2. Computational grid structure and control volumes


J. Eng. Mech., 2012, 138(2): 164-174

applied for the velocity components on the surface cells when by the surface waves attributable to vertical displacement of the
momentum solution is not possible. free-surface and approximated as suggested by Demirel and
In some cases, sharp deformations on the free-surface may oc- Aydin (2010):
cur, and this may lead to stability problems. Present code uses the
flux corrected transport (FCT) method (Borris and Book 1973) to pm ¼ St C d ws λ=Ld ð21Þ
relax stability restrictions. To ensure computational stability of the in which C d = dissipation coefficient; ws = dimensionless instan-
numerical algorithm, a combined stability condition is imposed on taneous vertical velocity component on the surface; and λ =
the time step on the basis of the convection and diffusion processes wavelength of the surface waves. The pressure magnitude may
(Chan and Street 1970). change direction depending on local vertical velocity of the free-

1 Δxiþ1=2 1 Δzjþ1=2 Re Δx2i Δz2j surface cell, so that surface pressure always acts to suppress the
Δt ¼ CFL min ; ; ; wave motion. The surface wavelength to dissipation zone length
St jui;j j St jwi;j j 2 ðΔx2i þ Δz2j Þ
 ratio (λ=Ld ) is used to adjust the amount of surface damping for
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1 2Δxi Δzj different choices of Ld . The dissipation zone length must be greater
St cðΔxi þ Δzj Þ than the possible wavelength for a gradual but effective damping.
For the above-mentioned definition of maximum surface pressure,
in which CFL = Courant-Friedrichs-Lewy number, which is fixed C d ¼ 0:2 produces negligible reflection provided that Ld ≥ λ.
as 0.5 throughout this study; and c = surface wave celerity. In the present study, Ld was fixed as 2λ.
The computer code NASSLARD was developed and tested
for various free-surface flow cases. Accuracy of the free-surface
Boundary Conditions tracking algorithm and performance of the far-end boundary con-
dition in relation to total volume conserving property of the code
At the dam face and reservoir bottom, normal velocities are set to has been reported in Demirel and Aydin (2010).
zero, and no-slip boundary conditions are used for the tangential
velocities. At the free-surface, an extrapolation procedure proposed
by Miyata (1986) is used for velocities. Free-surface velocities are Solution Domain and Input Parameters for the Test
extrapolated from the neighboring momentum velocities in this Cases
method. Pressure on the free-surface is computed from the free-
surface stress conditions given by Griebel et al. (1998). A nonzero Input parameters for earthquake-excited dam-reservoir problem are
pressure just on the free-surface is evaluated from the initial water depth in the reservoir, H, oscillation period of
    earthquake excitation, T and the amplitude of ground velocity, V m .
2F2r ∂u ∂u ∂w ∂w
pf s ¼ nn þ nx nz þ þ nz nz ð18Þ The period of surface waves formed by ground motion is identical
Re x x ∂x ∂z ∂x ∂z to the ground oscillation period that has been verified by numerical
experiments. Therefore, wave celerity and wavelength are com-
in which pf s = pressure on the free-surface; ~n ¼ ðnx ; nz Þ = local
puted from the ground oscillation period directly by using the wave
outward unit normal vector to the free-surface. The pressure at
dispersion relations for regular sinusoidal waves in deep water:
the nodal point at the center of the surface cell is calculated by
c ¼ gT=2π, λ ¼ gT 2 =2π (Rahman 1995). Determination of com-
linear interpolation from the free-surface value and the fluid cell
putational domain length L is based on water depth H and wave
below the free-surface cell.
length λ, which will be discussed subsequently after analysis of
At the far end of the reservoir, a combination of Sommerfeld
force fields.
nonreflecting boundary condition with a surface wave dissipation
Certain test cases are described to evaluate the behavior of the
zone is applied to minimize the wave reflection. The velocity com-
mathematical model and to test the capabilities and shortcomings
ponents along the far-end boundary are computed from a modified
of the computational algorithms. Ranges of oscillation period and
version of the Sommerfeld boundary condition to include ground
ground velocity are obtained from available earthquake records and
accelerations (Demirel and Aydin 2010):
related references (PEER 2002) as
1 ∂ϕ ∂ϕ 0:1 ≤ T ≤ 3:0 s 0:1 ≤ V m ≤ 3:0 m=s
aϕ þ þc ¼0 ð19Þ
St ∂t ∂x
The minimum and maximum reservoir depths are selected as 10
in which ϕ = velocity components u and w; and a = ground accel- and 600 m, respectively. All combinations of the limit values of the
erations in the velocity directions. A small region of the computa- input parameters are considered to obtain a set of test cases such
tional domain prior to the far-end boundary (Fig. 1) is allocated for that the extreme values of each dimensionless parameter appear at
suppression of surface waves by numerical treatments, which is least once in the set, which yielded eight test cases. The resonance
generally named as dissipation zone. In this zone, artificially cre- case for the pressure field described by as T=H ¼ 4 is included
ated nonatmospheric pressures are applied on the free-surface to as Test Case 9. Finally, the input parameters for Test Case 10 are
damp and dissipate the outgoing surface waves. From the start selected to produce the steepest surface waves to form a critical test
of this zone (s ¼ 0 in Fig. 1) a quasi-linear surface pressure is as- case for validating grid resolution and numerical stability of the
sumed to produce a gradual damping on the waves over the length solution algorithms. The input parameters and the corresponding
of the dissipation zone: dimensionless numbers for all test cases are given in Table 1.
pd ¼ pm s=Ld ð20Þ
in which pd = pressure applied at a surface cell as boundary con- Computational Grid
dition; pm = magnitude of surface pressure; s = horizontal distance
from the beginning of the dissipation zone; and Ld = length of the Schematic view of the computational grid distribution is shown in
dissipation zone. The magnitude of surface pressure is defined Fig. 3. There are two zones in the computational domain where fine
as the local change in hydrostatic pressure that would be created grid is required: near the solid boundaries and around the mean


J. Eng. Mech., 2012, 138(2): 164-174

Table 1. Test Cases for Dam-Reservoir Problem
Case Vm
number (m=s) T (s) H (m) Fa Fr St Re
1 0.10 0.100 10.0 145.19 0.0101 0.001000 1:00 × 106
2 0.10 0.100 600.0 18.74 0.0013 0.000017 6:00 × 107
3 0.10 3.000 10.0 145.19 0.0101 0.030000 1:00 × 106
4 0.10 3.000 600.0 18.74 0.0013 0.000500 6:00 × 107
5 3.00 0.100 10.0 145.19 0.3029 0.030000 3:00 × 107
6 3.00 0.100 600.0 18.74 0.0391 0.000500 1:80 × 109
7 3.00 3.000 10.0 145.19 0.3029 0.900000 3:00 × 107
8 3.00 3.000 600.0 18.74 0.0391 0.015000 1:80 × 109
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9 0.79 0.509 182.9 33.95 0.0187 0.002198 1:45 × 108

10 0.28 2.000 100.0 45.91 0.0089 0.005600 2:80 × 107
Fig. 4. Hydrodynamic pressure at the dam toe for different grid reso-
lutions (Test Case 9)

In the resonance case (Fig. 4), pressure oscillates in harmony

with the ground motion with constantly increasing amplitude.
Oscillating pressure amplitude in the third oscillation period is
more than twice the amplitude of the first period. If the resonance
conditions are maintained for several oscillation periods, the result-
ing hydrodynamic pressure can be several times larger than the
hydrostatic pressure, which may cause structural failure of the dam
or initiate landslides on the surrounding boundaries of the dam-
Next, the free-surface is left free to deform, and the maximum
wave run-up, ηmax , on the dam face is recorded from the solutions
with different numbers of grid elements. Determination of grid dis-
tribution in vertical direction requires at least two runs of the code
because ηmax is unknown. An estimate of ηmax obtained from the
first run is used to distribute the fine grid in between the maximum
and minimum water levels for the next run. The fine grid is ex-
Fig. 3. Computational grid distribution tended to 3ηmax distance (Fig. 3) around the mean free-surface
to be on the safe side and avoid repeated runs.
The minimum number of grids in horizontal and vertical direc-
free-surface including the highest possible wave crest and trough.
tions sufficient to describe a single surface wave is investigated for
High resolution in the vicinity of dam face is required for accurate
the Test Case 10. The input parameters are (H ¼ 100 m, T ¼ 2 s,
reproduction of surface deformations to determine the maximum
V m ¼ 0:28 m=s) selected to produce deep water waves with maxi-
wave run-up. Grid sensitivity analysis has been done for the hydro-
mum wave steepness as a critical test case for the surface tracking
dynamic pressure at the dam toe and the maximum wave run-up at
algorithm. The maximum wave run-ups on the dam face evaluated
the dam face. A variety of grid clustering rates have been tested and
from different grid resolutions are shown in Fig. 5. N x = number of
it is found that sufficiently fine uniform grid in regions of high sen-
sitivity and stretching in other regions of the domain up to a maxi-
mum allowable mesh size produces grid independent results with
computational economy. Maximum mesh sizes in the x-direction
and z-direction were limited to 3Δxmin and 5Δzmin , respectively.
For the hydrodynamic pressure at the dam toe, resonance case
(Case 9) is considered as the most critical test case to find out the
adequate grid resolution. The far-end boundary condition does not
work well in the resonance case, which was also observed by
Sharan (1987). Therefore, the reservoir length is taken as L ¼
7;000 m (for the resonant case only) to avoid any back-reflections
from the far-end boundary. Different grid resolutions are used, and
the hydrodynamic pressure at the dam toe (pt ¼ px¼0;z¼0  1) is
plotted as function of time in Fig. 4. Chopra’s (1967) analytical
solution based on the acoustic pressure equation is also shown
in the same figure for comparison. Free-surface was fixed in both
the numerical and analytical solutions. It is seen from Fig. 4 that
pressure solutions obtained using different number of grid elements
are almost identical, which is considered as an indication of grid
independence for the range of number of grid elements used in
Fig. 5. Grid convergence tests for ηmax (Test Case 10)
the present computations.


J. Eng. Mech., 2012, 138(2): 164-174

grid elements per wave length; N z = number of grid elements per and achieve full periodicity in all flow variables. Time and space
wave height. The difference in computed ηmax values is less than averages are evaluated from the 30th cycle solution.
0.2% when N x is greater than 40. Computed ηmax is almost inde- Time histories of each Q term for the first fluid-filled cell below
pendent of N z when N x is greater than 40. As a result of grid tests, the partially filled surface cell and the fluid cell on the bed are
N x ¼ 40 and N z ¼ 20 are used in the computations hereafter. shown in Figs. 6(a) and 6(b), respectively. Vertical axis represents
the percentage of each type of force in the summation of absolute
value of forces contributing to the momentum equations. Summa-
Temporal and Spatial Distributions of Forces in the tion of all contributing forces for a given instant of time should
Governing Equations
make a hundred. The hydrodynamic pressure (Q3 ) and unsteady
The dam-reservoir problem has a mixed nature involving different forces (Q1 ) on the surface cell are dominant and exchange weights
types of forces that dominate different regions of the flow field. during the flow reversals. Ground acceleration forces (Q5 ) rank
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Relative magnitudes of forces acting on the fluid elements and con- third with nearly constant weight, except for a sharp decrease
tributing to the development of flow are different near the bed and during flow reversals in which convective forces (Q2 ) get larger.
near the free-surface. There are rapid changes in composition of Viscous forces (Q4 ) are always negligible in magnitude everywhere
forces as the dam face or the free-surface is approached. A survey in the flow domain. There are small sudden jumps in force curves
of relative magnitudes of contributing forces in the momentum for the cell near the free-surface. This is attributable changing of the
equation had to be done to locate the far-end boundary at an observed cell as the free-surface moves up and down in time.
adequately far distance and fix the computational domain size to Ground acceleration (Q5 ) and pressure (Q3 ) are the two dominant
a minimum without introducing any restrictions on the free devel- forces constantly acting on the cell at the reservoir bottom, in which
opment of the flow in the region of interest. Each term in the gov- unsteady forces (Q1 ) have nearly 1% contribution in the force
erning equations are named and recorded to observe their temporal
budget. Convective forces (Q2 ) are generally negligible, except for
and spatial evolution (Demirel 2008):
1 ∂ ~
Vd∀ þ ~
Vð~ V · d~ AÞ
St ∂t CV
|fflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflffl{zfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflffl} |fflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflffl{zfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflffl}
Q1 Q2
1 ~ þ~ 1 ~~ 1 ∂
¼ 2 ∇ðp kÞd∀ þ ∇ V · d~ A ~
V d∀
Fr CV Re CS St ∂t CV g
|fflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflffl{zfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflffl} |fflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflffl{zfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflffl} |fflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflffl{zfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflfflffl}
Q3 Q4 Q5


1 ∂
 pd∀ ¼ V ·d~
~ A ð23Þ
St F 2a ∂t CV

in which Q1 , Q2 , Q3 , Q4 , and Q5 = magnitudes of dimensionless

force vectors attributable unsteadiness, convection, dynamic pres-
sure, viscosity, and ground acceleration, respectively. The last
parameter, Q6 , = dimensionless volume changes attributable to
compressibility forces. The observed quantities are also averaged
over time for one period of oscillation to visualize the spatial dis-
tributions. The time average is defined as:

jQni;j j
ðQTÞi;j ¼ ∀total Δt n ð24Þ

in which n = time level; and subscripts i, j = a computational cell.

The integrated quantity is divided by the computational cell volume
∀i;j to eliminate the numerical distortion attributable to variable cell
size used in the solution. The observed quantities are also averaged
over both time and space to observe their relation with dimension-
less numbers. Time and space average of any quantity is defined as:
1 iX max jX
jQni;j j
QTS ¼ ∀total Δtn ð25Þ
imax jmax i¼1 j¼1 ∀i;j

in which imax and jmax = numbers of mesh in horizontal and vertical

directions, respectively. Numerical solution is started from the ini-
tially hydrostatic case. Therefore, computations are carried on for
Fig. 6. Time histories of forces acting on fluid elements (Test Case 5)
30 oscillation periods to eliminate the effect of initial conditions


J. Eng. Mech., 2012, 138(2): 164-174

the sudden rise up to 1% around the flow reversals. Viscous forces On the other hand, the computational domain length should be
(Q4 ) are always negligible as in the surface cell. large enough to allow free evolution of surface waves between the
Spatial distributions of time-integrated forces normalized with dam face and beginning of the dissipation zone. Numerical tests
their maximum values are shown in Fig. 7. Forces attributable local have shown that L ¼ 10λ and Ld ¼ 2λ enable free development
(QT 1 ) and convective (QT 2 ) accelerations have the maximum of surface deformations in the computational domain and hence
values near the free-surface and close to dam face, associated with produce solutions unaffected from the dissipation zone and the
the run-up of surface waves in this zone. Hydrodynamic pressure location of the far-end boundary. Combining the two restrictions,
forces (QT 3 ) have their maximum values over the dam face. the computational domain length is fixed as L ¼ maxð4H; 10λÞ
Viscous forces (QT 4 ) are also concentrated very close to the dam henceforward.
face and near the free-surface, although they are negligible every-
where. Compressibility term (QT 6 ) of the pressure equation has its
Hydrodynamic Pressure
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maximum near the dam toe. Rapid variations of all forces in the
governing equations occur very close to the dam surface. This Computation of hydrodynamic pressure and evaluation of extreme
behavior is a justification for the limitation of the computational pressure loadings on the dam face is a vital issue in the earthquake
domain to a reasonable size by imposing the far-end boundary con- resistant design of a dam body. A simple approach is to obtain pres-
ditions. The length of the computational domain can be limited up sure solution from the acoustic pressure equation without solution
to x ¼ 4 (or 4H) without any loss of generality in the solution. for the velocity field and the free-surface as suggested in the pio-
neering work of Chopra (1967). Pressure variations at the dam toe
for Test Cases 7 and 8 obtained from NASSLARD solution and that
of Chopra are shown in Fig. 8. Pressure solutions are almost iden-
tical for Test Case 8, in which water depth is 600 m. Pressure is in
general independent of surface deformations, except for shallow
reservoirs such as in Test Case 7 in which surface wave heights
can be comparable to the reservoir depth of 10 m.
It is shown in Fig. 4 that resonance case would create pressure
oscillations with continually increasing amplitudes. This should
occur because of in-phase interaction of ground excitation and
response of the fluid volume with compressibility forces, as a
consequence of volumetric deformations. It should therefore be

Fig. 7. Spatial distribution of time-integrated forces in the computa-

tional domain (Test Case 1) Fig. 8. Hydrodynamic pressure variation at the dam toe


J. Eng. Mech., 2012, 138(2): 164-174

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Fig. 10. Wave run-up comparison to experimental data of Yang and

Chwang (1992)

Fig. 9. Time-integrated and space-integrated volumetric deformations,

QTS6 surface deformations successfully. Time evolution of free-surface
deformations near the maximum run-up are shown in Fig. 11 for
Test Case 1. In most cases, the maximum wave run-up occurs in the
expected that maximum volumetric deformations occur at the first oscillation cycle.
resonance case. To observe this, time-integrated and space- The computer code NASSLARD has been run for various
integrated value of instantaneous volumetric deformation QTS6 is combinations of reservoir depth, ground velocity, and oscillation
plotted as function of as T=H and presented in Fig. 9. As shown in period, and the maximum wave run-up height, ηmax , has been
the figure, computations with different ground velocity amplitudes recorded. It was not possible to set up a unique functional repre-
yielded the same results. Hence, compressibility effects are inde- sentation of dimensionless run-up height in terms of other dimen-
pendent of ground velocity. The volumetric deformation increases sionless numbers appearing in the governing equations. However,
up to as T=H ¼ 4, shows a peak value there, and then rapidly de- in the search for a dimensionless representation, it is found that the
creases. Occurrence of resonance for the pressure field for a given run-up height is a linear function of the ground velocity V m. The
water depth is only a function of the oscillation period. Resonance linear relationship between ηmax and the dimensionless group
condition can be sustained if there are ground oscillations persisting V m =gT for a given value of T was very useful to develop a formu-
at the required period of oscillation that is at the natural frequency lation for the run-up height. The ratio V m =T is a measure of
of the reservoir. Resonance would be observed at different oscilla- amplitude of ground accelerations, and thus the group V m =gT is a
tion periods in different zones of a large reservoir with variable measure of the ratio of the ground acceleration to that of gravity.
water depth attributable to variable bed topography. It is possi- This dimensionless group will be represented by Ar and named
ble to consider resonance occurring at different frequencies over as acceleration ratio. The maximum acceleration created in an
the body of a large reservoir at the same time, in case of ground oscillation cycle is equal to 2πV m =T.
motions containing energy with a wide spectrum of oscillation
frequencies enclosing the natural frequencies corresponding to
the reservoir depth range. For the resonance conditions, the pres-
sure changes are so large that the numerical treatments at the far-
end boundary fail to prevent back-reflections. Therefore, in the
numerical solution of resonating cases, the far-end boundary
was moved farther away so that the simulations are ended before
any surface waves reach to that boundary.

Wave Run-Up on the Dam Face

Evaluation of the maximum wave run-up on the dam face during

an earthquake is important for the designers to determine the height
of the free board and to know the conditions of overtopping.
Capability of NASSLARD to simulate surface waves created
by various excitation mechanisms was presented and discussed
in Demirel and Aydin (2010). The wave run-up predictions com-
pared with experimental data by Yang and Chwang (1992) are
shown in Fig. 10. Experimental data was obtained 0.17 s after
Fig. 11. Water surface profiles at different phases of ground motion
suddenly accelerating a vertical boundary plate horizontally.
(Test Case 1)
NASSLARD is able to produce time-dependent development of


J. Eng. Mech., 2012, 138(2): 164-174

period for the same range of reservoir depths. The asymptotic
approach to a constant slope with increasing reservoir depth is
confirmed. The best fit curves for the slopes of a given reservoir
depth can be described by an empirical equation written as
S ¼ Cη T α ð26Þ

in which C η and α = two parameters of best fit; both are functions

of H only. This form of best fit function has a practical advantage
for determination of best fit parameters. The coefficient C η can be
evaluated from the data of Fig. 12 for T ¼ 1 s as shown in Fig. 14.
Some extra test data are added in Fig. 14 at high reservoir depths to
better represent the asymptotic approach to a constant value. Once
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the coefficient C η has been fixed, an expression for the exponent α

can be developed using the data obtained from numerical experi-
ments presented in Fig. 13:
α ¼ 1:2 þ 0:21 log10 ðHÞ ð27Þ

The exponent α predicted from the numerical experiments and

the best fit curve given by Eq. (27) are shown in Fig. 15.
The maximum run-up on the dam face can now be evaluated
Fig. 12. Wave run-up for T ¼ 1 s from
ηmax ¼ SAr ð28Þ
The computed maximum run-up heights for T ¼ 1 s are shown for a given set of parameters H, T, and V m . Eq. (28) can be put into
as function of acceleration ratio in Fig. 12 for reservoir depths rang- a more useful form for the investigation of wave overtopping for
ing from 10 to 600 m. Straight lines fitted to the data set for each variable oscillation period and ground velocity when the reservoir
reservoir depth are also shown. It is observed from the figure that depth is fixed:
the slope of the best fitting lines is increasing with the reservoir

depth up to a maximum value at approximately H ¼ 600 m and ηmax ¼ V T α1 ð29Þ
becomes independent of reservoir depth for larger water depths. g m
Similar plots were constructed for different oscillation periods, in which ηmax is in meters when V m is in m/s and T is in s. Com-
and slopes of best fit lines describing ηmax as function of acceler- parison of data from numerical experiments and curves produced
ation ratio were obtained. Behavior is the same for the larger os- by Eq. (28) are shown in Fig. 16 for reservoir depths H ¼ 10;100
cillation periods; the water surface waves and the wave run-up on and 600 m, respectively. Increasing oscillation periods produces
dam face become independent of water depth for water depths larger wave run-up, which may go up to 10 m high for an extreme
larger than a limiting value. The slopes obtained from the best case of H ¼ 600 m, V m ¼ 3 m=s, and T ¼ 3 s. The range of Ar
fit lines to the numerical experiments for 1 ≤ T ≤ 3 s, similar to covered in the numerical study is well above the recorded earth-
that shown in Fig. 12 are shown in Fig. 13 as function of oscillation quake acceleration, which is around 0:2 g. The ratio of maximum

Fig. 13. Slope of wave run-up curves Fig. 14. Coefficient Cη of wave run-up


J. Eng. Mech., 2012, 138(2): 164-174

acceleration to gravity achieved in a sinusoidal ground oscillation
described by Eq. (7) is equal to 2π Ar .

Nondimensionalization Revisited

The previously presented numerical results gave some insight into

surface wave run-up attributable to sinusoidal ground accelerations.
It was not possible to form a dimensionless representation for the
wave run-up in terms of the ground motion and reservoir param-
eters because of the highly nonlinear nature of various phenomena
involved in the formation of surface deformations. However, it is
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apparent that a different set of dimensionless numbers are required

to better discuss the characteristics of the dam-reservoir problem.
One such dimensionless parameter, Ar , was already introduced in
the wave run-up discussions to represent the acceleration ratio. The
nondimensionalized equations given by Eqs. (1) and (2) are revised
by multiplying with F2r to identify the new dimensionless groups.
The new set of dimensionless momentum equations are written as

Ar ðu þ ug Þd∀ þ F2r V · d~
u~ A
∂t CV CS
Fig. 15. Exponent α of wave run-up Z Z
∂p ~ · d~
¼ d∀ þ Ar Δμ ∇u A ð30Þ
CV ∂x CS


Ar ðw þ wg Þd∀ þ F2r V · d~
w~ A
Z   Z
∂p ~ · d~
¼ þ 1 d∀ þ Ar Δμ ∇w A ð31Þ
CV ∂z CS

and the pressure equation is

1 ∂
 pd∀ ¼ V · d~
~ A ð32Þ
Ar Δ2a ∂t CV CS

in which the new dimensionless numbers are defined as

Vm μT=ρ aT
Ar ¼ Δμ ¼ Δa ¼ s ð33Þ
gT H H
The first group is a measure of acceleration ratio and the second
group represented by Δμ is a measure of viscous boundary layer
development during an oscillation period relative to water depth
that could affect the wave run-up only for long period oscillations
in shallow reservoirs. The third group, Δa , was already introduced
to represent the resonance case for the pressure field. It is the ratio
of distance traveled by the acoustic pressure waves to the water
depth. As illustrated in various figures, viscous forces are negligible
in magnitude when compared with other forces in the equations.
However, it is beneficial to keep them in the numerical solution
to be consistent with the no-slip boundary conditions applied at the
solid boundaries and to damp out the nonphysical oscillations in the
numerical solution.

Dam-reservoir response in terms of hydrodynamic pressure and
the wave run-up on dam face is investigated using a numerical
model based on full Navier-Stokes equations with compressibility
effects imbedded into the pressure equation. Free-surface deforma-
tions are traced by employing depth-integrated continuity, which
also enforced the global mass conservation in the computational
Fig. 16. Comparison of predicted wave run-up and numerical
domain. Sinusoidal ground accelerations are used in excitation of
an idealized, rectangular domain with rigid dam body and bottom


J. Eng. Mech., 2012, 138(2): 164-174

boundary. It has been shown that the acoustic pressure equation Demirel, E., and Aydin, I. (2010). “Global volume conservation in unsteady
solution obtained by neglecting the velocity field produces the free-surface flows with energy absorbing far-end boundaries.” Int. J.
same pressure field that could be obtained from a full Navier- Numer. Methods Fluids, 64(6), 689–708.
Stokes solution, except in shallow reservoirs in which contribution Fok., K. L., and Chopra, A. K. (1986). “Earthquake analysis of arch
of surface waves may be relatively significant. dams including dam-water interaction, reservoir boundary absorption
and foundation flexibility.” Earthquake Eng. Struct. Dyn., 14(2),
Wave run-up on the dam face is a function of water depth,
ground velocity, and oscillation period. Run-up height is indepen-
Fok, K. L., and Chopra, A. K. (1987). “Water compressibility in earthquake
dent of water depth when the reservoir depth is greater than 600 m response of arch dams.” J. Struct. Eng., 113(5), 958–975.
for oscillation periods of 1 s. The limiting value of the reservoir Griebel, M., Dornseifer, T., and Neunhoeffer, T. (1998). Numerical simu-
depth gets larger with increasing oscillation periods. An empirical lation in fluid dynamics: A practical introduction, SIAM, Philadelphia.
expression [Eq. (29)] for the run-up height is proposed on the basis Hung, T. K., and Chen, B. F. (1990). “Nonlinear hydrodynamic pressure on
of the numerical experiments conducted using the NASSLARD dams.” J. Eng. Mech., 116(6), 1372–1391.
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code. The expression of wave run-up can be used to predict con- Hung, T. K., and Wang, M. H. (1987). “Nonlinear hydrodynamic pressure
ditions of overtopping attributable to earthquake-generated surface on rigid dam motion.” J. Eng. Mech., 113(4), 482–499.
waves based on probabilistic values of ground velocity and oscil- Kleefsman, K. M. T., Fekken, G., Veldman, A. E. P., Iwanowski, B., and
lation period. Buchner, B. (2005). “A volume-of-fluid based simulation method for
wave impact problems.” J. Comput. Phys., 206(1), 363–393.
Küçükarslan, S. (2005). “An exact truncation boundary condition for
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J. Eng. Mech., 2012, 138(2): 164-174