Near Surface - Environmental Geophysics

Geophysical Investigation of River Embankments



  Dr Ernst Niederleithinger (BAM, Berlin, Germany)


  1 day


  Near Surface – Environmental Geophysics




  English, German


  5 CPD points




Course description

River embankments are on the one hand important parts of the technical infrastructure in inland naval transportation but on the other hand - more significantly - the most important safety belt for people, farms and industry in flood prone areas. The failure of embankments has cost thousands of lives and caused a billion Euro damage in recent years around the world. Geophysical methods are excellent tools for the structural and condition assessment of river embankments. But the selection of methods, interpretation and integration with other techniques have to be done properly to gain as much additional information as possible. After recent events, a significant amount of research results and case studies have been published. New regulations or recommendations have been put in place in several countries. Not all of them point in the same direction. This course tries to shed some light on the various ways to design, perform and interpret geophysical surveys for river embankments and to provide guidance along the way. Much emphasis is put on the integration of geotechnical and geophysical surveys.


Course objectives

Upon completion of the course, participants will know:

  • How to choose geophysical techniques and design surveys in an appropriate way;
  • How to translate the geophysical parameters into values useful for the engineers;
  • How to deal with geotechnical engineers and authorities (or vice versa);
  • How to avoid pitfalls.


Course outline

Motivation, history, geotechnical aspects, existing regulations, standards.

Introduction to the geophysical toolbox: state of the art methods available for river embankment investigation, resistivity, EM, seismics, GPR, other. This will include hands on experience with real data.

Identification of Materials
Investigation of embankment materials and subsurface geology.

Estimation of water content and movement from geophysical data, water as source of misinterpretation of geophysical results.

Objects and Voids
Localization of boulders, pipes, UXO, roots, animal activities.

Case studies
Special lessons to be learned from published case studies (or those from participants).

Integration, QA and Contracting
Integration of geophysics into the geotechnical survey procedures, quality assurance, contracting issues.


Participants' profile

Engineers/scientists working with geophysical or geotechnical contractors, flood protection authorities or research institutions working in flood protection.



Participants should have a basic understanding of near-surface geophysical techniques. Geotechnical/hydrological or hydraulic knowledge is of benefit. Participants are encouraged to bring their own computers to play with real data. Details will be announced to participants before the course.


About the instructor

Ernst NiederleithingerErnst Niederleithinger is a senior scientist at BAM and a lecturer at RWTH Aachen. He has a >25 year background in engineering geophysics and non-destructive testing in civil engineering, including 11 years at a geophysical contractor. He has lead a national research project on the evaluation of geophysical techniques for river embankment investigations and is co-author of the corresponding handbook. He has as well contributed to the International Levee Handbook.


                    Learning Geoscience Logo


Explore other courses under this discipline:


Geophysical Investigation of River Embankments

Instructor: Dr Ernst Niederleithinger (BAM)

The course will give a detailed introduction to geophysical investigation of river embankments. This includes background knowledge on geotechnical and legal issues, an overview of available techniques and their proper implementation and interpretation. This will be supported by case studies and hands on experience using real data and industry standard geophysical software. Integration into geotechnical surveys is discussed as well as quality assurance and contracting. Participants are encouraged to present their own projects, data and case studies for discussion.

More information

Near-Surface Geoscience

Instructor: Dr Andreas Laake (Schlumberger)

This course covers the geological and geophysical concepts governing the near-surface. Methods for investigating and characterizing the near-surface such as remote sensing and surface geophysical methods are presented. The different measurements are archived and integrated in a geographical information system (GIS). The final integration reveals geological information about the near-surface and provides geophysical information for corrections in seismic data processing.

More information