Recent Developments in Finite-Element Ocean Modeling

Friday, February 15, 2013 - 1:25pm - 2:25pm
Lind 305
Laurent White (Exxon Research and Engineering Company)
Over the last decade, there has been an increased interest in the development of ocean models using finite elements or finite volumes on unstructured meshes. The latter offer many compelling features such as the ability to conform to complex coastlines and bathymetry and to allow for the mesh resolution to vary in space and time. Numerical ocean models based on these techniques have the possibility to simultaneously resolve both small- and large-scale processes. While the potential of such models is large, much remains to be done before they can become operational. A step-by-step conversion from existing structured-grid models to unstructured-mesh models is unlikely to occur due to intrinsic algorithmic differences. New models must therefore be designed from scratch. When resorted to naively, finite elements are not ideally suited to represent the ocean dynamics, where wave phenomena, advective processes and conservation laws must be modeled with caution in order to preserve the physical integrity of numerical solutions. This presentation will focus on a selection of these processes and will outline what has been recently done to overcome the difficulties encountered. Illustrations of these concepts will be shown and include some idealized test cases in simple geometries, the propagation of slow Rossby waves in the Gulf of Mexico, barotropic and baroclinic instabilities, barotropic tidal flow and flow in the Great Barrier Reef.

Laurent White obtained a Diploma in mathematical engineering from Universite catholique de Louvain (Belgium) in 2002 and a Master of Science in civil engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2003. He then returned to Belgium to complete a PhD in computational science at Universite catholique de Louvain where his research focused on applying novel finite-element technique to ocean modeling. Upon completion of his PhD in 2007, he joined NOAA(*)'s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton University as a postdoc where he continued to apply his expertise in numerical methods to issues pertaining to ocean modeling. In 2009, Laurent joined ExxonMobil's Corporate Strategic Research Lab (NJ) where he is currently working towards improving the computational algorithms used for seismic imaging and reservoir simulation.

(*) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration