Accurate prediction of pier scour can lead to economic design of bridge piers and prevent catastrophic incidents. This paper presents the application of self-adaptive evolutionary extreme learning machine (SAELM) to develop a new model for the prediction of local scour around bridge piers using 476 field pier scour measurements with four shapes of piers: sharp, round, cylindrical, and square. The model network parameters are optimized using the differential evolution algorithm. The best SAELM model calculates the scour depth as a function of pier dimensions and the sediment mean diameter. The developed SAELM model had the lowest error indicators when compared to regression-based prediction models for root mean square error (RMSE) (0.15, 0.65, respectively) and mean absolute relative error (MARE) (0.50, 2.0, respectively). The SAELM model was found to perform better than artificial neural networks or support vector machines on the same dataset. Parametric analysis showed that the new model predictions are influenced by pier dimensions and bed-sediment size and produce similar trends of variations of scour-hole depth as reported in literature and previous experimental measurements. The prediction uncertainty of the developed SAELM model is quantified and compared with existing regression-based models and found to be the least, ±0.03 compared with ±0.10 for other models.

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