This study quantitatively investigates the generalization from laboratory scale to field scale using the soft computing (expert) and the empirical methods. Principal component analysis is utilized to form the input vector for the expert methods. Five main dimensionless parameters are used in the input vector of artificial neural networks (ANN), calibrated with laboratory data, to predict field total sediment loads. In addition, nonlinear equations are constructed based upon the same dimensionless parameters. The optimal values of the exponents and constants of the equations are obtained by the genetic algorithm (GA) method using the laboratory data. The performance of the so-developed ANN and GA based models are compared against the field data and those of the existing empirical methods, namely Bagnold, Ackers and White, and Van Rijn. The results show that ANN outperforms the empirical methods. The results also show that the expert models, calibrated with laboratory data, are capable of predicting field total loads and thus proving their transferability capability. The transferability is also investigated by a newly proposed equation which is based on the Bagnold approach. The optimal values of the coefficients of this equation are obtained by the GA. The performance of the proposed equation is found to be very efficient.

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