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Model Info
Model type Finite element hydrodynamic model for coastal oceans, inlets, rivers and floodplains.

Rick Luettich
Joannes Westerink
Randall Kolar

Cline Dawson
Web site

General Section

  • Data Visualization
  • Mesh Editing
  • Observation

Models Section

Several Sample problems can be found on the ADCIRC model developer's webpage

The ADCIRC (Advanced Circulation) model is a finite element hydrodynamic model for coastal oceans, inlets, rivers and floodplains. The initial developers of the code were Rick Luettich (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and Joannes Westerink (University of Notre Dame). Other principal developers include Randall Kolar (University of Oklahoma at Norman) and Cline Dawson (University of Texas at Austin). Various other groups are involved in development and support around the country.

The ADCIRC model can be added to a paid edition of SMS.

Graphical Interface

SMS provides a graphical interface that is designed to visualize the projects being created, easily modify project parameters, and view the solutions produced by the ADCIRC model. See ADCIRC Graphical Interface for more information.

The ADCIRC Graphical Interface contains tools to create and edit an ADCIRC simulation. The simulation consists of a geometric definition of the model domain (the mesh) and a set of numerical parameters. The parameters define the boundary conditions and options pertinent to the model.

The interface is accessed by selecting the 2D Mesh Module and setting the current model to ADCIRC. If a mesh has already been created for a ADCIRC simulation or an existing simulation read, the mesh object will exist in the Project Explorer and selecting that object will make the 2D Mesh module active and set the model to ADCIRC. See the Mesh Module documentation for guidance on building and editing meshes as well as visualizing mesh results.

The interface consists of the 2D Mesh Module Menus and tools augmented by the ADCIRC Menu. See ADCIRC Graphical Interface for more information.


The list of files (both input and output) that may be associated with an ADCIRC simulation is quite long. The web site lists all of these with details describing format and purpose. A brief summary of the most common file types is included here:

Input files

  • Required
  • fort.14: Grid file – Saved as proj_name.grd by SMS and copied to fort.14 for use in an ADCIRC run.
  • fort.15: Control file – Saved as proj_name.ctl by SMS and copied to fort.15 for use in an ADCIRC run.
  • Optional
  • fort.13: Nodal or Spatial attributes
  • fort.19: Specified water surfaces (non-periodic elevation)
  • fort.20: Specified flow rates (non-periodic flow/flux such as a river)
  • fort.22, fort.2**: Meteorologic conditions (winds and atmospheric pressure) – Several formats depending on the option being used
  • fort.23: Wave radiation stress forcing – fort.23

Output files

  • Diagnostic
  • fort.6 – Screen output
  • fort.16 – General information
  • Global
  • fort.63 or – Water surface at each node
  • fort.64 or – Velocity components at each node
  • fort.53 – Elevation Harmonic constituents at each node
  • fort.54 – Velocity Harmonic constituents at each node
  • fort.73 – Atmospheric pressure at each node
  • fort.74 – Wind stress or velocity at each node
  • At observation stations
  • fort.61 – Water surface at stations
  • fort.62 – Velocity components at stations
  • fort.51 – Elevation Harmonic constituents at stations
  • fort.52 – Velocity Harmonic constituents at stations
  • fort.71 – Atmospheric pressure at stations
  • fort.72 – Wind stress or velocity at stations

Global Output Format

Generally, ADCIRC has the ability to output global data in three formats. These include:

  • Standard ASCII – This format loops through the time steps including a value for each node (both node ID and solution value). These files are commonly very large (multiple GB) and can take a significant amount of time to load (sometimes as long as half an hour) because SMS has to process each time step of each dataset and build information about the solution for faster access. When instructing SMS to read a file of this type, SMS recognizes that the ASCII format is not efficient and converts the data to XMDF format in an "h5" file. The name of the XMDF file that will be created can be specified. Multiple standard ascii files can be combined into a single "h5" file. The new "h5" file hase the following advantages:
  • The "h5" file is binary and compressed so it is much smaller than the standard ASCII file.
  • SMS can read the "h5" file almost instantaneously because all of the time step information is already compiled and a single time step is retrieved rather than processing the entire dataset.
  • Sparse ASCII – This format loops through the time steps includes a default value for the time step and a number of nodes that don't have this default. Most commonly, the default would be -9999 indicating dry nodes. The file then includes the exceptions consisting of node ID and solution values for nodes that are not the default value. These lines are identical to the value lines in the standard ASCII format. (This format is supported in SMS starting at version 11.2) SMS converts sparse ASCII files to XMDF files just as it does the standard ASCII files.
  • NetCDF – This format is a binary library format using the NetCDF library. The data can be viewed using an HDF viewer. (This format is supported in SMS starting at version 11.2)

(Note: ADCIRC documentation references a global binary format as an option. These options correspond to NOUT** values of 2 and -2 generally. There is no evidence that this option is functional in the current version of ADCIRC. It has been removed from the SMS interface.)


ADCIRC is a system of computer programs for solving time dependent, free surface circulation and transport problems in two and three dimensions. These programs utilize the finite element method in space allowing the use of highly flexible, unstructured grids. Typical ADCIRC applications have included: (i) modeling tides and wind driven circulation, (ii) analysis of hurricane storm surge and flooding, (iii) dredging feasibility and material disposal studies, (iv) larval transport studies, (v) near shore marine operations.

For more information about the ADCIRC model visit

Running ADCIRC in Parallel (PADCIRC)

SMS 11.2 and later allows running ADCIRC in parallel (PADCIRC) on a single machine to take advantage of multiple cores. This can greatly speed up the runs. Use the following steps to set up a PADCIRC model:

  1. Download the MPI (Message Passing Interface) executable found on the SMS downloads page in the ADCIRC Basic Utilities zip folder.
  2. To avoid run issues, install the MPI as an administrator and run with administrative privileges.
  3. In SMS, select Edit | Preferences to bring up the Preferences dialog.
  4. In the Other Files section, set the file path for the MPIEXEC executable.
  5. Open the ADCIRC Model Control dialog.
  6. Select the General tab in the model control.
  7. In the Processors section put the desired number of processors into the Computational field.
    1. To find out how many processors (CPU's or cores) the machine can use, right-click on the windows task bar and select Start Task Manager to bring up the Windows Task Manager.
    2. In the task manager, select the Performance tab and count the number of boxes under the CPU Usage History section. This will show how many physical (and virtual) CPU's the computer has. If hyper-threading technology is enabled it will have twice as many CPU's show up as actual physical cores in the hardware.
  8. In SMS, run the ADCIRC model and PADCIRC.exe will run instead.


When using File | Save As... the following files get saved in the SMS file.

  • *.mat referenced to new save location
  • *.map referenced to new save location
  • *.grd referenced to new save location
  • *.ctl referenced to new save location
  • *.h5 referenced to new save location
  • *.dat referenced to new save location

Using the Model / Practical Notes

There is an ADCIRC listserv that may be useful to keep up-to-date about the latest releases of ADCIRC and to post any questions about ADCIRC. It is If wanting to join, please email Crystal Fulcher.

Related Topics

External Links