Observations and parabolic wave modeling of underwater pile driving impact noise

Jan. 31, 2015


Peter H. Dahl and Per G. Reinhall


Pile driving in water produces extremely high sound levels in both surrounding air and underwater environments. In a companion work [Reinhall and Dahl] it is shown using finite element simulation that for underwater case the primary sound signal originates from a compression wave traveling down the pile at a speed in excess of Mach 3. In this work, we present measurements pile driving impactnoise made from a marine construction site in Puget Sound using a vertical line array (VLA) positioned at ranges 8–15 m from full‐scale impact pile driving. The measurements are modeled using the parabolic wave equation approach for which synthetic time series are generated (bandwidth 50–2050 Hz). The simulation is achieved by way of a phased array of point sources, representing one source traveling down the pile at supersonic speed. Pile end reflections are included and the process is repeated with both an up‐ and down‐traveling time‐delayed sources. With the field computed in this manner, excellent agreement is achieved between model and observations of peak pressure level, and the compression wave speed is also confirmed by way of arrival angle estimation using the VLA. Implications on transmission loss are also discussed. [Work supported by the Washington State Department of Transportation.]



"This new research shows we can minimize underwater pile driving noise to avoid harm to mammals and other protected marine species. The new sound attenuation method may also save project construction time and money."
Rhonda Brooks, Research Director, Washington State Department of Transportation

Hear the difference

Recorded from hydrophone deployed at 10m during subscale testing of 8" steel piles in Seattle, Washington in 2013.

You are hearing 4 strikes of a standard pile followed by 4 strikes of a Reinhall Pile™. Notice the difference.