A three-dimensional spectral element model for the solution of the hydrostatic primitive equations

M. Iskandarani, Dale B. Haidvogel, Julia C. Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


We present a spectral element model to solve the hydrostatic primitive equations governing large-scale geophysical flows. The highlights of this new model include unstructured grids, dual h-p paths to convergence, and good scalability characteristics on present day parallel computers including Beowulf-class systems. The behavior of the model is assessed on three process-oriented test problems involving wave propagation, gravitational adjustment, and nonlinear flow rectification, respectively. The first of these test problems is a study of the convergence properties of the model when simulating the linear propagation of baroclinic Kelvin waves. The second is an intercomparison of spectral element and finite-difference model solutions to the adjustment of a density front in a straight channel. Finally, the third problem considers the comparison of model results to measurements obtained from a laboratory simulation of flow around a submarine canyon. The aforementioned tests demonstrate the good performance of the model in the idealized/process-oriented limits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-425
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 10 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Numerical Analysis
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


  • Hydrostatic primitive equations
  • Ocean model
  • Spectral element


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