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Hydrogeological modeling of Northern Ireland drumlins in three dimensions



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The need to renew and expand civil infrastructure, combined with an increased acknowledgement of a changing climate, has highlighted the need to incorporate the influence of climatic factors into the design of infrastructure. In geotechnical engineering, this includes understanding how climate influences the performance of slopes associated with engineered cuttings in pre- existing natural landforms. This understanding extends to both hydrological and hydrogeological conditions, both of which are often analyzed using numerical modeling of surface water and groundwater. Climate change predictions for Northern Ireland indicate that the amount and intensity of rainfall and extreme weather events will increase. This has raised concerns regarding the stability of existing engineered cut-slopes and the design of future highway and railway infrastructure. Recent studies have indicated that there is a link between pore pressure cycles and softening of slope structures, especially in clay rich materials typical of glacial till drumlins in Northern Ireland. These pore pressure fluctuations are caused by seasonal changes in the rate of recharge which then propagate through the deeper hydrogeologic system. As a consequence, the design of these cuttings requires that the hydrogeological response of these landforms to seasonal climate variations be incorporated into geotechnical designs. Two dimensional hydrogeological simulations are typically used in engineering practice. The main objective of this study was to evaluate the sensitivity of these simulations to dimensionality (two- and three-dimensions). The primary focus was on steady state groundwater flow within two drumlins with large slope cuts. Two- and three-dimensional groundwater models were developed using available information for a highway and a railway study site. The performance of each of these models was then compared to field monitoring from each site. A series of sensitivity studies were undertaken to evaluate the influence of key material properties and boundary conditions. Estimated recharge rates were found to range from 21 to 31 mm year-1 for both the railway (Craigmore) and highway (Loughbrickland) study sites. The hydraulic head distribution at the Craigmore site was similar for both dimensional simulations with a “best-fit” recharge rate of 50 to 60 mm year-1. At the Loughbrickland site, similar hydraulic head distributions with the “best-fit” recharge rate of 80 mm year-1 were reached in both dimensions. Overall, the research completed here emphasized the importance of gathering appropriate data prior to conducting development of hydrogeological models. As more data is made available, the overall complexity of the system can be better understood. As the complexity of the problem increases, the requirements for understanding the hydrogeological system in all three-dimensions becomes more important.



hydrogeology, dimensionality effects, groundwater flow, glacial till



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Civil and Geological Engineering


Civil Engineering


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