SELFE case studies

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Columbia River estuary and plume

Research Team
OHSU: Antonio Baptista, Joseph Zhang, Nate Hyde, Paul J. Turner, Charles Seaton

Projection description
Columbia River estuary and plume circulation presents a formidable challenge for hydrodynamic models due to the interaction between strong tides, meteorological forcing, high river discharge, and strong stratification. SELFE was originally developed to address these challenges and some details can be found in the SELFE paper.

The SELFE-enabled virtual Columbia River is a skill-assessed 4D (space-time) simulation environment that offers multiple representations of circulation processes, variability and change across river-to-shelf scales. Circulation includes water levels, salinity, temperature, and velocities.

Project web site
SELFE-enabled Columbia River forecast system at NOAA

Related publications

  • Burla, M., Baptista, A.M. Zhang, Y., and Frolov, S. (2010) Seasonal and inter-annual variability of the Columbia River plume: a perspective enabled by multi-year simulation databases. Journal of Geophysical Research: special issue on NSF RISE project, 115, C00B16.
  • Frolov, S., Baptista, A.M., Zhang, Y., and Seaton, C. (2009) Estimation of Ecologically Significant Circulation Features of the Columbia River Estuary and Plume Using a Reduced-Dimension Kalman Filter. Continental Shelf Research, 29(2), 456-466.
  • Frolov, S., A.M. Baptista, M. Wilkin, (2008). Optimizing Placement of Fixed Observational Sensors in a Coastal Observatory, Continental Shelf Research, 28(19) 2644-2659.
  • Zhang, Y. and Baptista, A.M. (2008) "SELFE: A semi-implicit Eulerian-Lagrangian finite-element model for cross-scale ocean circulation", Ocean Modelling, 21(3-4), 71-96.

Sample images

Fig. 1 shows the Columbia River plume in 3D view forecasted by SELFE.

Fig. 1 3D view of the Columbia River plume


Project web site


Research Team
VIMS: Harry Wang, Yi-Cheng Teng, Yan-qiu Meng, Joseph Zhang
OHSU: Joseph Zhang

Projection description

SELFE is being used in an IOOS sponsored super-regional testbed for coastal inundation, led by Dr. Rick Luettich (UNC). The testbed focuses on two coastal regions that are prone to inundation hazard: Gulf of Mexico and Gulf of Maine.

Project web site
Related publications

  • Teng, Y.C., Wang, H.V., Zhang, Y., Roland, A. (to be submitted) The effect of bottom boundary layer dynamics on the forerunner simulation during Hurricane Ike in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Roland, A., Zhang, Y., Wang, H.V., Meng, Y., Teng, Y., Maderich, V., Brovchenko, I., Dutour-Sikiric, M. and Zanke, U. (2012) A fully coupled wave-current model on unstructured grids, Journal of Geophysical Research- Oceans, 117,C00J33,doi:10.1029/2012JC007952.
  • Cho, K.H. Wang, H.V., Shen, J., Valle-Levinson, A. and Teng, Y.C. (2012) A modeling study on the response of the Chesapeake Bay to Hurricane Events of Floyd and Isabel. Ocean Modeling, vol. 49-50, pp. 22-46.

Sample images
Fig. 2 shows an example application of the fully coupled SELFE-WWM and a simple sediment model to hurricane Ike (2008) in Gulf of Mexico. The full results are being published (Teng et al. 2012).

Fig. 2 Domain used to simulate hurricane Ike in Gulf of Mexico. The comparison plot shows the primary surge and forerunner simulated with different physical formulations (c/o Y.C. Teng)

Marine Submersion (Xynthia Storm Surge)

Research Team
DPL: Xavier Bertin, Kai Li, Aron Roland, Nicolas Bruneau, Jean-François Breilh et al.

Projection description
In February 2010, the storm Xynthia hit the central part of the Bay of Biscay severely. The storm surge locally exceeded 1.5m (Bertin et al., 2011) and peaked at the same time as a high spring tide, causing the flooding of large areas of the low-lying coast. Analysis results show the wave processes are important in the storm surge. The 2DH SELFE with WWM coupled model was applied in the research. And a highly refined flooding multiscale grid was developed to catch the pysical processes of flooding.

Related publications

Sample images

Fig. 3 shows the simulated water depth in North of La Rochelle during Xynthia of preliminary result.

Fig. 3 Simulated water depth in North of La Rochelle during Xynthia (red line: observed flooding boundary

Portuguese coastal systems

There are 3 related projects for this system.

  1. A nowcast-forecast system for for Portuguese coastal systems
    Research Team
    LNEC: Anabela Oliveira, André Fortunato, Marta Rodrigues, Alberto Azevedo, João Palha Fernandes
    OHSU: António Melo Baptista, Joseph Zhang, Bill Howe, Paul J. Turner, Charles Seaton
    Project description
    The goal of this project is to integrate complementary research strengths at the two institutions towards the development of a nowcast-forecast system for water quality prediction in estuarine and coastal waters. The Portuguese partners will provide the water quality models and the American institution will provide the innovative nowcast-forecast technology.
    Project web site
  2. Improvement of a morphodynamic model applied to tidal inlet environments
    Research Team
    LNEC: André Fortunato, Anabela Oliveira, Xavier Bertin
    Project description
    Tidal inlets are among the most dynamic environments along the world coastlines while social-economic activities are there concentrated. These problems are particularly relevant in Portugal due to its extensive coastline and the existence of many tidal inlets of social, environmental and economic importance. In the perspective of a sustainable development, it is essential to understand and to be able to predict the long-term evolution of these systems. To achieve these goals, one of the most promising avenues is the development of morphodynamic models, which consist of a set of modules to simulate tidal hydrodynamics, wave propagation, sediment transport and bottom evolution. This project aims at contributing to the advance of an existing morphodynamic modeling system (MORSYS2D) that is under development at the host institution (LNEC).
    Project web site
  3. Towards operational forecasting of ecosystem dynamics: Benchmarking and Grid-enabling of an ecological model (BGEM) Research Team
    LNEC: Anabela Oliveira, André Fortunato, Marta Rodrigues and João Palha Fernandes
    CMOP: António Melo Baptista, Joseph Zhang, Bill Howe, Charles Seaton, Paul J. Turner
    Project description
    This proposal aims to integrate complementary research strengths at the two institutions to improve and validate a sophisticated ecological modeling system for operational forecasting of ecosystem dynamics based on grid computing resources. The Portuguese partner will provide the ecological model and the expertise on grid-enabling of numerical models. The American partner will provide the expertise on parallel computing and the benchmark for validation and inter-model comparison.
    Fig. 4 An overview of the ecological model ECOSELFE (Rodrigues, 2008)

    Project web site


Research Team
OHSU & VIMS: Joseph Zhang
DOGAMI: George Priest, Rob Witter, Laura Stimely
GeoCanada: Kelin Wang
Oregon State Univ: Chris Goldfinger

Projection description

SELFE has been certified by National Tsunami Hazard Program (NTHMP, 2012) as a tsunmai inundation model, after passing various benchmarks stipulated by NOAA/PMEL. It has been used to generate official inundation maps for the state of Oregon, spearheaded by OR Department of Geology ad Mineral Industries (DOGAMI), under the auspice of NTHMP.

Sample images
Fig. 5 is a sample inundation map for Cannon Beach OR.

Fig. 5 Tsunami hazard map for Cannon Beach OR, generated from SELFE (c/o DOGAMI)

Related web site

Related publications

  • NTHMP (2012) Proceedings and results of the 2011 NTHMP model benchmarking workshop. Boulder: US Depart. of Commerce/NOAA/NTHMP, NOAA Special Report 436p.
  • Priest, G.R., Goldfinger, C., Wang, K., Witter, R.C., Zhang, Y., Baptista, A.M. (2010) Confidence levels for tsunami-inundation limits in northern Oregon inferred from a 10,000-year history of great earthquakes at the Cascadia subduction zone. Natural Hazards, 54(1), 27-73.
  • Witter, R.C, Zhang, Y., Wang, K., Goldfinger, C., Priest, G.R., Allan, J.C. (2012) Coseismic slip on the Cascadia megathrust implied by tsunami deposits in an Oregon lake. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth, 117, B10303, doi:10.1029/2012JB009404.
  • Witter, R.C., Jaffe, B., Zhang, Y. and Priest, G.R. (2011) Reconstructing hydrodynamic flow parameters of the 1700 tsunami at Cannon Beach, Oregon, USA., Natural Hazards, DOI 10.1007/s11069-011-9912-7.
  • Zhang, Y., Witter, R.W. and Priest, G.P. (2011) Tsunami-Tide Interaction in 1964 Prince William Sound Tsunami, Ocean Modelling, 40, 246-259.
  • Zhang, Y.L., and Baptista, A.M. (2008) Benchmarking a new finite-element tsunami model on unstructured grids. Pure and Applied Geophysics: Topical issue on Tsunamis, vol. 165, pp. 2229-2248. pdf .

Water Quality in the Chesapeake Bay Region

Research Team

Virginia Institute of Marine Science: Junzheng Zhu and Harry Wang

Projection description

The Chesapeake Bay and the Coastal Bays of the Maryland/Virginia Atlantic shore are highly valuable and productive ecosystems that are increasingly threatened by degraded water quality and loss of habitat due to both anthropogenic and natural disturbances.

In an effort to reverse this trend, federal and state governments have implemented a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program to control point source and non-point source pollution in each watershed.

In order to quantify these controls and better understand cause and effect relationships, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science is developing numerical hydrodynamic and water quality models and linking them together as a tool for predicting and measuring success of the TMDL effort.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science is involved in two TMDL projects in the Chesapeake Bay region:

  1. TMDL scenario development and implementation for the Maryland and Virginia Coastal Bays system.
  2. Impact on localized water quality resulting from allocation of nutrient loads to dredged material contaminant facilities in Baltimore Harbor.

Both projects involve coupling SELFE and ICM (Integrated Compartment Model).

Sample images

Fig. 6 shows some sample results.

Fig. 6 SELFE-ICM for Maryland coast and bay

Aquaculture and coastal pollutants modelling (New Zealand)

Research Team
Cawthron Institute: Ben Knight
MetOcean Solutions Limited: Brett Beamsley

Application description
Aquaculture and other coastal developments in New Zealand have the potential to place increasing pressures on coastal environments. The Cawthron Institute and MetOcean Solutions Limited have been collaborating to produce open-source community models for coastal environments around New Zealand to aid in coastal effects assessments. We are presently utilising and building upon SELFE community modelling tools associated with Lagrangian and Eularian transport for a range of coastal transport applications (e.g. faecal indicator bacteria, nutrients, oil spills).

We have a number of collaborative projects under-way, but are currently working towards simplifying the set up and analysis of tracers for modelling a range of chemical and biological constituents in aquaculture and coastal discharge assessments.

Sample images

Fig. 7 shows SELFE Matlab GUI (currently under development) with a bathymetric map of the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand.

Fig. 7 SELFE Matlab GUI showing bathymetric map of the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand