Temperature changes play a large role in the day to day structural behavior of structures, but a smaller direct role in most contemporary Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) analyses. Temperature-Driven SHM will consider temperature as the principal driving force in SHM, relating a measurable input temperature to measurable output generalized strain (strain, curvature, etc.) and generalized displacement (deflection, rotation, etc.) to create three-dimensional signatures descriptive of the structural behavior. Identifying time periods of minimal thermal gradient provides the foundation for the formulation of the temperature–deformation–displacement model. Thermal gradients in a structure can cause curvature in multiple directions, as well as non-linear strain and stress distributions within the cross-sections, which significantly complicates data analysis and interpretation, distorts the signatures, and may lead to unreliable conclusions regarding structural behavior and condition. These adverse effects can be minimized if the signatures are evaluated at times when thermal gradients in the structure are minimal. This paper proposes two classes of methods based on the following two metrics: (i) the range of raw temperatures on the structure, and (ii) the distribution of the local thermal gradients, for identifying time periods of minimal thermal gradient on a structure with the ability to vary the tolerance of acceptable thermal gradients. The methods are tested and validated with data collected from the Streicker Bridge on campus at Princeton University.
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