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Development of an Unstructured Grids, Finite-Volume Hydrodynamic and Water Quality Model

PIs: Changsheng Chen* (University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth, MA, USA) and Jackson O. Blanton (Skidaway Inst of Oceanography, Savannah, GA, USA)

Support: GA DNR Coastal Zone Management (through a Coastal Incentive Grant) and Georgia Sea Grant College Program.

Timeframe: 1998 - 2004

Project Overview:
The objective of this project is to develop a new hydrodynamic, suspended sediment, and water quality model which has the capability of simultaneously simulating both estuary-scale and tidal creek-scale features of the water movement and water quality in Georgia's estuaries. We have developed an unstructured grid, finite-volume, three-dimensional, primitive equation ocean model (called FVCOM). This new model combines the advantages of a finite element method for geometric flexibility and a finite-difference method for the simplest discrete computation. The currents, temperature and salinity in the model are computed following a conservative law, which is essential in the estimation of biological and chemical fluxes over salt-marsh, tidal creeks, and estuarine complex. This model has been successfully applied to the Satilla River, an estuary characterized by numerous tidal creeks, barrier islands, and inlets. The application of this new finite-volume model to Georgia estuaries has provided us with a very efficient scientific tool that can assist them in evaluating water quality in Georgia's estuaries.

Readers are referred to the websites on Dr. Chen's work --


Zheng, L., C. Chen, and H. Liu, 2003. A modeling study of the Satilla River Estuary, Georgia. I: Flooding-drying process and water exchange over the salt marsh-estuary-shelf complex. Estuaries, 26, 651-669.

Zheng, L. C. Chen, M. Alber and H. Liu, 2003. A modeling study of the Satilla River Estuary, Georgia. II: Suspended sediment.

Zheng, L. C. Chen, and F. Zhang, 2004. Development of water quality model in the Satilla River estuary, Georgia. Ecological Modeling, in press.

Chen, C, H. Liu, and R. C. Beardsley, 2003. An unstructured grid, finite-volume, three-dimensional, primitive equation ocean model: application to coastal ocean and estuaries. J. Atmos. Ocean. Technol., 20, 159-186.

Chen, C., J. Zhu, R. C. Beardsley, and P. S. Franks, 2003. Physical-Biological Sources for the Dense Algal Bloom over the Western Shelf of the East China Sea, Geophysical Research Letter, 30(10), 1515, 22-1:4.

Related Projects:
Modeling Study of Physical Processes over the Inner Shelf of the Georgia Coast

    Mapping of Water Quality Related Parameters in the Satilla River for Model Data Assimilation and Verification

*Formerly -- Dept of Marine Sciences, Univ of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA

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This page was updated October 13, 2006