SMS:CGWAVE Math Details: Governing Equations

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Governing Equations

In its basic form, the methodology is based on solving the following two-dimensional elliptic equation:

= complex surface elevation function
= wave frequency under consideration
= phase velocity =
= group velocity =
= wavenumber , related to the local depth through the dispersion relation:
= (2)

The wave height H can be obtained from complex surface elevation function φ as follows:

= (3)

Essentially (1) represents an integration over the water column of the three-dimensional Laplace equation used in potential wave theory. The integration, originally described by Berkhoff (1976) and Smith and Sprinks (1975), is necessary because the solution of the three-dimensional problem is computationally difficult for harbors with a characteristic length that is several times the wavelength. The integration is based on the assumption that the vertical variation of the wave potential is largely the same as that for a horizontal bottom, i.e.


This approximation is obviously valid for a "mild slope", characterized by , a criterion that is usually met in practice. (Extensions to steep slopes are described later). Unlike "approximate" mild slope wave models (e.g. REFDIF and RCPWAVE described by Dalrymple et al. 1984; Kirby, 1986; and Ebersole, 1985), there are no intrinsic limitations on the shape of the domain, the angle of wave incidence, or the degree and direction of wave reflection and scattering that can be modeled with (1). While (1) is valid for a monochromatic (single incident frequency-direction) wave condition, irregular wave conditions may be simulated using (1) by superposition of monochromatic simulations.

As noted earlier, (1) incorporates the effects of refraction, diffraction, and reflection induced by any nonhomogeneity in the model domain. We now provide extensions of (1) that include, in addition, dissipative effects (friction and wave breaking), steep-slope effects, and floating docks.


To include dissipative effects, we consider the following extended form of (1):

in which a dissipation term (with W) has been included. By separating the real and imaginary parts of (5), Booij (1981) has shown that (5) satisfies the energy balance equation in the presence of dissipation. The term W may represent breaking and/or friction and is described later.

In (5), W represents the combined effects of friction and breaking, which may be separated as follows:

where w is the friction coefficient defined by Dalrymple et al. (1984) and g is a breaking factor. These coefficients are empirical, and parameterizations for these have been described by Dalrymple et al. (1984), Tsay et al. (1989), and Chen (1986) for friction and by Battjes and Janssen (1978), Dally et al. (1985), Massel (1992), Chawla et al. (1998), and Isobe (1999) for breaking. Some of these parameterizations have been extensively validated against field data (e.g. Larson 1995; Kamphuis 1994). The parameterization used in CGWAVE is based on the formulation by Dalrymple et al. (1984).

Published studies demonstrating the effects of friction in harbor models (e.g. Chen 1986; Tsay et al. 1989; Demirbilek and Panchang 1998; Kostense et al. 1986) have estimated w on the basis of the incident wave amplitude. It is then easy to pre-specify w while solving (5). These studies appear to show that friction can change the magnitude of resonant peaks in harbor models quite substantially; at other frequencies, the effect seems to be minimal.

As to breaking, Zhao et al. (2000) applied a finite element wave model to several tests involving breaking. These tests involved a sloping beach, a bar-trough bottom configuration, shore-connected and shore-parallel breakwaters on a sloping beach, and two field cases in the North Sea and Ponce de Leon Inlet (Florida). Five breaking formulations, given by Battjes and Janssen (1978), Dally et al. (1985), Massel (1992), Chawla et al. (1998), and Isobe (1999) were examined. In general, they found that the formulations of Battjes and Janssen (1978) and Dally et al. (1985) were the most robust from point of view of incorporation into an elliptic model based on (5) and provided excellent results compared to data. CGWAVE includes the Battjes and Janssen (1978) formulation.

Unlike friction the breaking coefficient is a function of the wave amplitude which is unknown a priori inside the domain, and its inclusion makes the problem nonlinear and requires iteration. For the first iteration, W is set equal to 0 and (1) is solved (e.g. non-breaking solutions are obtained). The resulting wave heights are used to estimate W via the Battjes and Janssen (1978) parameterizations and (5) is solved again. The process is repeated until convergence is obtained. This can be a very time –consuming process. For many practical applications, it is therefore suggested that simple non-breaking simulations be performed, and an H/D breaking limit be then applied to artificially cut off the excessively large waves. This option is available in CGWAVE.

Steep-slope effects

Unlike the nonlinear mechanisms described above, the “mild slope” requirement discussed in Section 1 is relatively easy to eliminate. Massel (1993), Porter and Staziker (1995), Chamberlain and Porter (1995), and Chandrasekera and Cheung (1997) developed extensions of (1) to include steep-slope effects. Their extensions may be described by the following equation:

where d1 and d2 are functions of local depths. Reference may be made to these publications for the various definitions of d1 and d2; in general, though, differences in the proposed definitions of these functions impact model results to a very small extent. The steep-slope terms are fairly straightforward to include in the model because they are linear. Further, they have the advantage of being “automatic”, i.e. they have little contribution for mild slopes and do not change the solution technique; when they are significant, the additional computational demand is negligible. However, steep slopes lead to breaking and model performance in the vicinity of steep slopes (e.g. see the work of Massel and Gourlay (2000) that include breaking and steep-slope effects near coral reefs). CGWAVE uses the formulation by Chandrasekera and Cheung (1997).

Floating Docks

One problem frequently encountered by engineers when using models based on (1) pertains to the presence of floating structures in the modeling domain (e.g. floating breakwaters or docks in marinas). These structures of course violate the “free-surface” requirement of (1). The problem near the dock is 3-dimensional, whereas the model (eq. 1) is solved in a 2-dimensional framework. CGWAVE uses an approximate method suggested by Tsay & Liu (1983) for tackling floating structures in the context of 2-d harbor wave models. This approach merely calls for a suitable modification to the second term on the left-hand side of (1). (Tsay and Liu (1983) examined suppressing this term). As a consequence, the method is extremely simple to implement with existing finite element models. A model grid is first generated as usual with no regard to the floating structure, grid elements covering the floating structure (in plan view) are selected, they are assigned a depth value equal to the under-keel clearance, and the coefficient of the second term in (1) is set to zero for these elements. Clearly, this is an ad-hoc method intended for convenience in engineering practice, and although Tsay & Liu (1983) provided heuristic arguments in support of this approach, their testing of this procedure was rather limited. Li et al. (2005) found, however, that the method produces results which deviate considerably from the solution of the Laplace equation, and hence developed a simple modification to the original Tsay & Liu (1983) approximation. This involves adjusting the under-keel depth by a factor α = Aln(ka)+B, where a = half width of the structure, and A and B are given in Figure 2 (and Table 1) for different values of relative submergence (defined by draft/water-depth = d/h). The modified approximation yields improved results, when compared to both laboratory data and theoretical results, for a wide range of conditions. By way of practical demonstration, simulations in Douglas Harbor (Alaska) was described by Li et al. (2005) for examining the effects of proposed floating dock configurations. The factor α must be provided to CGWAVE along with the draft depths during grid generation.

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