American Society of Civil Engineers

Field Verification of a Computational Fluid Dynamics Model for Wave Transformation and Breaking in the Surf Zone

by Sreenivasa C. Chopakatla, (Pacific Northwest Natl. Lab., 1100 Dexter Ave. N., Ste. 400, Seattle, WA 98109. E-mail:, Thomas C. Lippmann, (Dept. Civ. and Envir. Engrg. & Geodetic Sci., Ohio State Univ., Byrd Polar Res. Ctr., 1090 Carmack Rd., Columbus, OH 43210. E-mail:, and John E. Richardson, (Pres., Blue Hill Hydr., Inc., 447 Falls Bridge Rd., BLue Hill, ME 04614)

Journal of Waterway, Port, Coastal and Ocean Engineering, Vol. 134, No. 2, March/April 2008, pp. 71-80, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: The commercial computational fluid dynamics model FLOW-3D (Flow Science, Inc., Santa Fe, N.M.) is used to simulate two-dimensional wave transformation and breaking across a naturally barred beach profile. Fine scale pressures and velocities are computed for a 35.5 min period over a two-dimensional beach profile measured during the 1990 Delilah field experiment. The model is driven by observed wave spectra obtained in 8 m water depth, and results compared with a cross-shore array of pressure sensors and current meters extending from near the shoreline to beyond the surf zone and the spatial distribution of wave breaking patterns obtained from video data. In the calculations, wave breaking is a natural consequence of the fluid dynamics and does not require the use of empirical formulations or breaking criteria. Good agreement between modeled and observed wave height transformation, mean cross-shore flow, and wave breaking variability suggests that the model can be used as a numerical laboratory to study the wave breaking and dissipation process in detail, and perhaps lead to improved parametrizations for more computationally efficient numerical models.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Breaking waves
Coastal processes
Computational fluid dynamics technique
Fluid dynamics
Surf zones
Surface waves