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Completed, 2010

National Community Sediment-Transport Modeling

See: CMGTooL — Software for processing, analyzing, and visualizing time-series oceanographic data


A community numerical modeling system to simulate erosion, transport, deposition, and fate of sediments in the coastal ocean is critically needed by scientists, engineers, and environmental managers dealing with coastal pollution problems, natural-resource management, impacts of navigation and resource-development projects, and hazard mitigation. Advancing our capability for predictive modeling in coastal regions is one of the three grand challenges identified by the National Research Council Ocean Studies Board (1999), and this need was recognized in the Geologic Division Unified Prospectus in FY2001, which called for improved understanding of the processes that transport sediment in coastal areas, and for prediction of coastal erosion and long-term health of coastal and marine environments. We need a modeling system developed and supported by a broad community of scientists, engineers, modelers, and decision makers. The ideal modeling system would implement peer-reviewed, process-based algorithms for circulation, sediment-transport, and biogeochemical processes related to pollution, eutrophication, and turbidity. The models included in the system should be well written in a modern programming language, well documented, well verified and tested, practical to modify or expand, and suitable for advanced computers. Models should also be open source and in the public domain and actively supported by an institution and an active user group. The community modeling system should also include model infrastructure, such as instructional resources for users, downloadable source code, pre- and post-processing tools, test cases, links to input and test data, and links to scientific results obtained with the models. Community modeling systems exist for comparable earth-science disciplines, such as meteorology, climate change, groundwater, and physical oceanography, and these tools have proved invaluable in advancing science and decision-making. At present, there is no community model available to scientists, engineers, or managers working in coastal and estuarine systems. The goal of this project is to promote and support the development of a such a modeling system.

Start/End Dates

10/1/2001 - 9/30/2010




  • Chris Sherwood
  • Brad Butman
  • Dave Rubin
  • Rich Signell
  • John Warner

When critical sheer stress is exceeded, mix sediment to form an active layer from which material is eroded with a flux boundary condition.


Deposition is the product of settling velocity and near-bed concentration. If more than 5 mm of material is deposited, a new layer is formed. A constant number of layers is maintained by splitting or combining the bottom layer, as needed.


The primary goal of this project to build and maintain a state-of-the-art coastal sediment-transport model. The model is intended for use on USGS projects that require a process-based numerical model for quantifying transport of sediment, pollutants, and nutrients in estuarine and shelf environments, but it is also intended as a tool for other researchers and consultants who provide expert advice to coastal decision makers. A second important goal of this project is to advance the science and technology that underpins sediment-transport modeling. This includes building software tools to facilitate modeling, conducting field research to test models, and developing instruments and protocols that allow critical measurement of sediment-transport processes. Finally, the third goal of this project is to deploy and test the sediment-transport model on real-world applications to validate and improve the models and to provide advanced modeling results to project researchers.


The strategy for accomplishing project objectives has changed slightly as the project has advanced. Our strategy has been influenced by the following events:

  1. OFA funding has been from ONR has encouraged work on EuroSTRATAFORM. Work in the Adriatic Sea has provided an ideal opportunity for testing the model against a very complete data set in a well-controlled environment. Funding for Gulf of Lions research has encouraged us to advance instrument development, which will ultimately improve our ability to evaluate the model.
  2. The needs of regional projects and the opportunities for model evaluation continue to evolve.
  3. OFA funding from NOPP to support a community-based model has not yet materialized, but an opportunity may be announced soon. In the absence of significant funding from NOPP, we have proceeded to develop the model with internal funding.
  4. The initiation of the CEM project (Hanes; Santa Cruz) has provided CMG with more resources for modeling, instrument development, and measurements, and new regional project have emerged that provide opportunities for model application and evaluation.

Our strategy for

  1. prioritizing experimental work,
  2. maximizing the impact/results of past and ongoing regional studies to meet both regional study and modeling objectives,
  3. technical support for model evaluation, development, and applications, and
  4. delivery of data, tools, and model evaluations

is presented below. An overview of coastal modeling efforts in the USGS is being developed by Sherwood et al. (2004) as a work product in Task 1. Prioritization of Experimental Work Experimental work is in this project is prioritized according to the following criteria: scientific need for experiment results to improve key model components; capabilities of USGS facilities and investigators; mutually beneficial scientific opportunities associated with USGS regional projects; and opportunities for leveraging USGS efforts by taking advantage of external funding opportunities, well-designed studies, special facilities, or unique and enthusiastic collaborators. The largest experimental efforts are associated with EuroSTRATAFORM (see Tasks 4 and 5), which meets most of these criteria. Field experiments associated with the South Carolina project (see Task 3) are assigned a high priority because they provide support to a regional project and are coordinated with the Coastal Evolution Modeling project. Prioritization of the other experimental work is anticipated in FY05 work plans are discussed in Task 3. Regional Studies In FY05, this project will provide significant direct support to the following regional projects: So. California (Palos Verdes), South Carolina, and Massachusetts Bay. Investment in the WL Delft Hydraulics coop provides indirect support to other projects, notably Willipa Bay, Puget Sound, and the CEM project. Technical Support We hope to slightly increase the number of scientists and technicians available to develop modeling tools, prepare model input, run models, and evaluate model output. The leadership of Hanes and Signell provides us with an appropriate level of senior scientists, but we hope to combine SIR OE and OFA funding (possibly from NOPP) to improve capabilities at the technical level, both in Woods Hole and Santa Cruz. We also need to continue to develop new instrumentation and tools for data processing, so continued funding of these activities is included in the budget. Delivery of Data, Tools, and Model Evaluations Delivery of data associated with model-related field programs or laboratory measurements will continue to appear as data reports or open-file reports. Analyses of these measurements and their evaluation in the context of modeling will be published in the scientific literature. Improvements in the community coastal sediment-transport model will be continued to be publicly released as part of the Regional Ocean Modeling System.

Tasks and SubTasks

  • Model System Development and Support
  • Agency-Level Support for National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP)
  • Pilot Studies: Model Applications and Field Measurements of Critical Model Parameters
  • Tools: Sustained Development of Software Tools for Model I/O, Analysis, and Visualization
  • Model Testing and Demonstration: Marthas Vineyard Coastal Observatory (MVCO) Measurements and Model Applications; and Middle Ground Surveys and Model Applications
Bathymetric Model.
Plan view of final bathymetric change.


CMGTooL — Software for processing, analyzing, and visualizing time-series oceanographic data

ROMS Community, ROMS 2.1 (with sediment-transport contributions by USGS and others), Rutgers University

C. K. Harris and C. R. Sherwood (convenors), 2002, Application and Assessment of Coastal Sediment Transport Models. Special Session OS21, AGU/ASLO Ocean Sciences Meeting, Honolulu, Hawaii., American Geophysical Union

Sherwood, C. R., C. K. Harris, W. R. Geyer, and B. Butman (2002) Toward a Community Coastal Sediment-Transport Modeling System: Report of the Second Workshop. EOS, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, 83(51).

Sherwood, C. R., R. P. Signell, C. K. Harris, and B. Butman, 2001, Report of the Community Sediment Transport Workshop, USGS Open-File Report 00-448

Sherwood, C. R., R. P. Signell, C. K. Harris, and B. P. Butman, 2000, Workshop discusses community models for coastal sediment transport, EOS Transactions of the American Geophysical Union 81(43):502

Warner, J. C., C. R. Sherwood, H. G. Arango, and R. P. Signell (2004) Performance of four turbulence closure models implemented using a generic length scale method. Ocean Modelling, in press.

Xu, J.P., F. Lightsom, M.A. Noble, C. Denham (2002) CMGTooL user's manual. USGS Open-File Report 02-19, 30p.

Website: Sherwood, C. R., Warner, J. C., Alexander, P., Butman, B., Signell, R., 2002, Community Model for Coastal Sediment Transport, USGS

Workshop: C. R. Sherwood, R. P. Signell, C. K. Harris, B. Butman, 2000, Community Models for Coastal Sediment-Transport. Woods Hole, MA, June 2000., USGS

Workshop: C. R. Sherwood, W. R. Geyer, P. Alexander, 2002, Community Sediment-Transport Model Town Meeting at AGU/ASLO Ocean Sciences 2002, USGS


Department of Interior (DOI)/USGS, Water Resources Division/POC: Smith, J. Dungan
Massachusetts Institute of Technology/POC: Madsen, Ole
National Ocean Service (NOS)/POC: Gross, Tom
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)/POC: Signell, Rich
Ohio State University/POC: Foster, Diane
Oregon State University/POC: Allen, John
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche - Sezione Geologia Marina, Bologna, ITALY/POC: Miserocchi, Stefano
Delft Hydraulics Laboratory, NETHERLANDS /POC: Roelvink, Dano
Exponent, Inc./POC: Shrestha, Pravi
National Research Council, Istituo di Scienze Marine, Venice, ITALY/POC: Carniel, Sandro
Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey/POC: Pullen, Julie
Oregon Health and Sciences University/POC: Chisholm, Tom
Servizio IdroMeteorologico - ARPA Emilia Romagna, ITALY/POC: Chiggiato, Jacapo
Stevens Institute of Technology/POC: Blumberg, Alan
Tetra Tech, Inc./POC: Hamrick, John
URS Corporation, Tallahasee/POC: Niedoroda, Alan
Rutgers University/POC: Arango, Hernan
Rutgers University/POC: Wilkin, John
University of California, Los Angeles/POC: Stolzenback, Keith
University of Maryland/POC: Sanford, Larry
University of Virginia/POC: Wiberg, Patricia
University of Washington/POC: Nittrouer, Chuck
Virginia Institute of Marine Science/POC: Harris, Courtney
Virginia Institute of Marine Science/POC: Friedrichs, Carl
Washington Department of Ecology and Monitoring/POC: Kaminsky, George
Waterways Experiment Station/POC: Ebersole, Bruce
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/POC: Geyer, Rocky
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/POC: Trowbridge, John
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/POC: Traykovski, Peter


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