Development of a three-dimensional, regional, coupled wave, current, and sediment-transport model

John C. Warner, Christopher R. Sherwood, Richard P. Signell, Courtney K. Harris, Hernan G. Arango

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

576 Scopus citations


We are developing a three-dimensional numerical model that implements algorithms for sediment transport and evolution of bottom morphology in the coastal-circulation model Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS v3.0), and provides a two-way link between ROMS and the wave model Simulating Waves in the Nearshore (SWAN) via the Model-Coupling Toolkit. The coupled model is applicable for fluvial, estuarine, shelf, and nearshore (surfzone) environments. Three-dimensional radiation-stress terms have been included in the momentum equations, along with effects of a surface wave roller model. The sediment-transport algorithms are implemented for an unlimited number of user-defined non-cohesive sediment classes. Each class has attributes of grain diameter, density, settling velocity, critical stress threshold for erosion, and erodibility constant. Suspended-sediment transport in the water column is computed with the same advection-diffusion algorithm used for all passive tracers and an additional algorithm for vertical settling that is not limited by the CFL criterion. Erosion and deposition are based on flux formulations. A multi-level bed framework tracks the distribution of every size class in each layer and stores bulk properties including layer thickness, porosity, and mass, allowing computation of bed morphology and stratigraphy. Also tracked are bed-surface properties including active-layer thickness, ripple geometry, and bed roughness. Bedload transport is calculated for mobile sediment classes in the top layer. Bottom-boundary layer submodels parameterize wave-current interactions that enhance bottom stresses and thereby facilitate sediment transport and increase bottom drag, creating a feedback to the circulation. The model is demonstrated in a series of simple test cases and a realistic application in Massachusetts Bay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1284-1306
Number of pages23
JournalComputers and Geosciences
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Information Systems
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


  • Model coupling
  • Nearshore modeling
  • Sediment transport
  • Three-dimensional numerical model


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