For physical model tests, the time-varying characteristics of tidal currents are often simplified by a hydrograph following a shape of a unidirectional current or by resolving the tidal velocity signal into discrete steps of constant flow velocity. The influence of this generalization of the hydrograph’s shape on the scouring process in tidal currents has not yet been investigated systematically, further increasing the uncertainty in the prediction of scour depth and rate. Therefore, hydraulic model tests were carried out to investigate and quantify the influence of the hydrograph shape on the scouring processes under tidal currents. Several different hydrographs including those with continuously changing velocities, constant unidirectional currents, square-tide velocities and stepped velocity time series were analyzed. Results show that the scouring process in tidal currents is characterized by concurrent sediment backfilling and displacement which can only be reproduced by hydrographs that incorporate a varying flow direction. However, if only a correct representation of final scour depths is of interest, similar scour depths as in tidal currents might be achieved by a constant, unidirectional current, provided that a suitable flow velocity is selected. The effective flow work approach was found capable to identify such suitable hydraulic loads with reasonable practical accuracy.
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