A new meso-scale discrete element model to study deposit differences in tsunamis and storms

Monday, 15 December 2014: 9:30 AM
Wei Cheng, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA, United States and Robert Weiss, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, United States
A fundamental question in tsunami and storm studies is how to differentiate their deposits, which is key to the understanding of past events. Currently, there is no consistent differences due to wide variability of causative forces, topography, sediment source and post-depositional changes. One avenue to resolve these issues can potentially be numerical modeling. Conventional depth-averaged models help us learn general interactions between flow and sediments, but fail to reproduce small-scale depositional structures. We present a new meso-scale sediment transport model. The goal is to advance our knowledge of characteristic differences between storm and tsunami deposits and their relationship with the hydrodynamic processes in tsunamis and storms.

Our transport model is based on the Discrete Element Method (DEM). While it is ideal to model every single sediment grains, contemporary computational power will be quickly exhausted due to the scale of interest. Therefore we employ the meso-scale method where a particle represents a group of grains. The volume of each particle is determined dynamically based on pickup rate from the bed and transport rate at the boundaries. During transport, it is assumed that the particle does not change. The motion of particles is governed by Newton’s Second Law, with wave motion superimposed on its settling velocities. Hindered settling is implemented to allow interactions between particles through changes of local sediment concentration. Particles are deposited when they reach the bed, and merged into the top layer. Deposits consist of layers that are of the same constant thickness. Bed avalanching could occur where slope exceeds a certain threshold.

The Nonlinear Shallow Water Equation (NSWE) is employed to model hydrodynamics. The system of NSWE is solved with a second-order upwind FVM numerical scheme. Wetting and drying is also implemented to handle inundation. In order to couple the depth integrated NSWE with DEM, a velocity profile is obtained.

Initial results show that our model is capable of reproducing macroscopic depositional differences between tsunamis and storms. We will further analyze differences in deposit structures and their link to different wave and sediment transport processes.