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An Unstructured Grid, Finite-Volume, Three-Dimensional, Primitive Equations Ocean Model: Application to Coastal Ocean and Estuaries

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  • 1 School for Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth, New Bedford, Massachusetts
  • | 2 Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
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Abstract

An unstructured grid, finite-volume, three-dimensional (3D) primitive equation ocean model has been developed for the study of coastal oceanic and estuarine circulation. The model consists of momentum, continuity, temperature, salinity, and density equations and is closed physically and mathematically using the Mellor and Yamada level-2.5 turbulent closure submodel. The irregular bottom slope is represented using a σ-coordinate transformation, and the horizontal grids comprise unstructured triangular cells. The finite-volume method (FVM) used in this model combines the advantages of a finite-element method (FEM) for geometric flexibility and a finite-difference method (FDM) for simple discrete computation. Currents, temperature, and salinity in the model are computed in the integral form of the equations, which provides a better representation of the conservative laws for mass, momentum, and heat in the coastal region with complex geometry. The model was applied to the Bohai Sea, a semienclosed coastal ocean, and the Satilla River, a Georgia estuary characterized by numerous tidal creeks and inlets. Compared with the results obtained from the finite-difference model (ECOM-si), the new model produces a better simulation of tidal elevations and residual currents, especially around islands and tidal creeks. Given the same initial distribution of temperature in the Bohai Sea, the FVCOM and ECOM-si models show similar distributions of temperature and stratified tidal rectified flow in the interior region away from the coast and islands, but FVCOM appears to provide a better simulation of temperature and currents around the islands, barriers, and inlets with complex topography.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Changsheng Chen, School for Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth, 706 South Rodney French Blvd., New Bedford, MA 02744-1221. Email: c1chen@umassd.edu

Abstract

An unstructured grid, finite-volume, three-dimensional (3D) primitive equation ocean model has been developed for the study of coastal oceanic and estuarine circulation. The model consists of momentum, continuity, temperature, salinity, and density equations and is closed physically and mathematically using the Mellor and Yamada level-2.5 turbulent closure submodel. The irregular bottom slope is represented using a σ-coordinate transformation, and the horizontal grids comprise unstructured triangular cells. The finite-volume method (FVM) used in this model combines the advantages of a finite-element method (FEM) for geometric flexibility and a finite-difference method (FDM) for simple discrete computation. Currents, temperature, and salinity in the model are computed in the integral form of the equations, which provides a better representation of the conservative laws for mass, momentum, and heat in the coastal region with complex geometry. The model was applied to the Bohai Sea, a semienclosed coastal ocean, and the Satilla River, a Georgia estuary characterized by numerous tidal creeks and inlets. Compared with the results obtained from the finite-difference model (ECOM-si), the new model produces a better simulation of tidal elevations and residual currents, especially around islands and tidal creeks. Given the same initial distribution of temperature in the Bohai Sea, the FVCOM and ECOM-si models show similar distributions of temperature and stratified tidal rectified flow in the interior region away from the coast and islands, but FVCOM appears to provide a better simulation of temperature and currents around the islands, barriers, and inlets with complex topography.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Changsheng Chen, School for Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth, 706 South Rodney French Blvd., New Bedford, MA 02744-1221. Email: c1chen@umassd.edu

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