USGS EarthWord of the Week
EarthWords is an on-going series in which we shed some light on the complicated, often difficult-to-pronounce language of science. Think of us as your terminology tour-guides, and meet us back here every week for a new word!
The EarthWord: Scour
Although we searched hard for this EarthWord, that’s not the definition we’re going with today. Instead, we’ll be looking at the version of scour that affects bridges and other infrastructure.
Scour occurs when water erodes the sediments that surround the base or support structures for bridges, roads, and other man-made buildings.
Scour is often caused by fast-moving water, so scour often occurs during floods.
Scour originates from the Latin excurare, which meant “to clean off.”
Use/Significance in the Earth Science Community:
Scour is a big concern for infrastructure managers, as it’s one of the primary structural threats that bridges face. The U.S. Forest Service, in a 1998 report, said that scour was the single most common cause of highway bridge failure in the United States.
The phenomenon of erosion due to flooding is also a significant issue to the field of hydrology, as it can affect the behavior of rivers.
USGS studies scour as part of its Office of Surface Water, where we had an entire project dedicated to bridge scour.
We’re currently working with the Federal Highway Administration to analyze the effectiveness of anti-scour installations on bridges and other infrastructure using high-tech tools like lidar and other survey methods.
We also often partner with other agencies like the U.S. Forest Service or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do studies on bridge scour following significant floods.
Next EarthWord: On the 1st day of summer, we’ve got an EarthWord that’s a fan-just not the cooling kind...
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