mesh generation, grid generation, tidal modeling, finite elements, truncation error analysis, coastal engineering, complex derivatives, estuarine modeling


A new methodology for the determination of target element sizes for the construction of finite element meshes applicable to the simulation of tidal flow in coastal and oceanic domains is developed and tested. The methodology is consistent with the discrete physics of tidal flow, and includes the effects of bottom stress. The method enables the estimation of the localized truncation error of the nonconservative momentum equations throughout a triangulated data set of water surface elevation and flow velocity. The method's domain-wide applicability is due in part to the formulation of a new localized truncation error estimator in terms of complex derivatives. More conventional criteria that are often used to determine target element sizes are limited to certain bathymetric conditions. The methodology developed herein is applicable over a broad range of bathymetric conditions, and can be implemented efficiently. Since the methodology permits the determination of target element size at points up to and including the coastal boundary, it is amenable to coastal domain applications including estuaries, embayments, and riverine systems. These applications require consideration of spatially varying bottom stress and advective terms, addressed herein. The new method, called LTEA-CD (localized truncation error analysis with complex derivatives), is applied to model solutions over the Western North Atlantic Tidal model domain (the bodies of water lying west of the 60° W meridian). The convergence properties of LTEACD are also analyzed. It is found that LTEA-CD may be used to build a series of meshes that produce converging solutions of the shallow water equations. An enhanced version of the new methodology, LTEA+CD (which accounts for locally variable bottom stress and Coriolis terms) is used to generate a mesh of the WNAT model domain having 25% fewer nodes and elements than an existing mesh upon which it is based; performance of the two meshes, in an average sense, is indistinguishable when considering elevation tidal signals. Finally, LTEA+CD is applied to the development of a mesh for the Loxahatchee River estuary; it is found that application of LTEA+CD provides a target element size distribution that, when implemented, outperforms a high-resolution semi-uniform mesh as well as a manually constructed, existing, documented mesh.


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Graduation Date





Hagen, Scott


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Degree Program

Civil Engineering








Release Date

September 2007

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)