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Nonlinear seismic analysis of arch dams


Dowling, Michael J. (1988) Nonlinear seismic analysis of arch dams. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology.


A nonlinear finite element procedure for arch dams is described in which the gradual opening and closing of vertical contraction joints and predetermined horizontal cracking planes are considered. A special joint element approximately represents the deformations due to plane sections not remaining plane at each open joint and allows a single shell element discretization in the thickness direction to be used for the dam. Compressive and sliding nonlinearities are not included. Finite element treatments are also used for the water, assumed incompressible, and for the foundation rock, assumed massless, with all degrees of freedom (dof) off the dam condensed out. For efficiency in the computations, the condensed water and foundation matrices are localized in a way which maintains good accuracy. The response of Pacoima Dam to the 1971 San Fernando ground motion recorded on a ridge over one abutment and scaled by two-thirds is computed first for water at the intermediate level that existed during the 1971 earthquake and then for full reservoir. In the first analysis, the dam exhibits pronounced opening and separation of the contraction joints, allowing violation of the no-slip assumption. The presence of a full reservoir greatly increases the dam response, enough to bring some of the assumptions of the analysis into question. Reducing the ground motion scale to 0.44 with full reservoir drops the response back to a reasonable level, but the contraction joint separations remain.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Major Option:Civil Engineering
Thesis Availability:Restricted to Caltech community only
Thesis Committee:
  • Hall, John F. (chair)
Defense Date:17 September 1987
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-06112008-155515
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:2556
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:12 Jun 2008
Last Modified:26 Dec 2012 02:52

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