The tricky task of river delta modelling

Mississippi delta formation

Geobods have a problem: they can’t model any geophysical process worth its salt on computer because of the complexity of the processes involved and the timescales over which they take place. It’s just too computationally demanding. One process in particular has defied attempts to model it: river delta formation.

But Hansjorg Seybold from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and buddies finally seem to have pulled it off and have produced a pretty good simulation of the Mississippi River delta.

Previous simulations have all attempted to model the flow of water and sediment using equations that describe the interaction between the processes of erosion, deposition and shallow water flow. The hydrodynamics this leads to is hugely complex.

But Seybold and co have simplified things by using conservation laws instead of flow laws. So, for example, the total amount of water is constant during each iteration. That seems to have made a big difference. The teams says it has simulated a number of features of river deltas for the first time, such as river mouth switching. Neat huh?

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0711.3283: Modeling River Delta Formation

One Response to “The tricky task of river delta modelling”

  1. [...] of how little we actually know about how flu spreads. On a happier note, progress has been made on computer modelling of river deltas. Which makes me think of quantum computing and the way many sciences today seem to have reached a [...]