Two- and Three-Dimensional Hydrodynamic Modeling of the Salton Sea, California

by Christopher B. Cook,
Gerald T. Orlob, (F.ASCE),

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: North American Water and Environment Congress & Destructive Water


The Salton Sea, the largest surface water body in California, faces a myriad of problems related to rapidly changing water levels, rising salinity, accelerated eutrophication, fish kills, and potential physical alteration of its bathymetry. In the initial phase of a comprehensive study to resolve these problems two- and three-dimensional hydrodynamic models have been applied to characterize circulation and transport processes. Because of the Sea's large size, relatively shallow depth, exposure to perennial winds, and small hydrologic influxes, the hydrodynamics of the system have been assumed initially to be driven solely by wind and Coriolis forces. Wind-induced friction on the Sea's surface was generated by imposing a representational steady regional wind derived from statistical analysis of observations at three weather stations situated on the north, west, and southeast shores of the Sea. Initial simulation results suggest the presence of several large gyres within the water body, located within the northern and southern basins. A comparison of two- and three-dimensional representations is provided. Preliminary studies of proposed salinity control barriers that would isolate portions of the Sea indicate potential adverse effects of physical modification of the Sea's bathymetry. Critical concerns for future control of water levels and salinity focus on wind-induced circulation, water and salt balances, and pollution by tributary sources.

Subject Headings: Water circulation | Three-dimensional models | Salt water | Water level | Seas and oceans | Hydrodynamics | Wind forces | California | United States

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