Tsunami modelling with adaptively refined finite volume methods

Randall J. Leveque, David L. George, Marsha J. Berger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numerical modelling of transoceanic tsunami propagation, together with the detailed modelling of inundation of small-scale coastal regions, poses a number of algorithmic challenges. The depth-averaged shallow water equations can be used to reduce this to a time-dependent problem in two space dimensions, but even so it is crucial to use adaptive mesh refinement in order to efficiently handle the vast differences in spatial scales. This must be done in a 'wellbalanced' manner that accurately captures very small perturbations to the steady state of the ocean at rest. Inundation can be modelled by allowing cells to dynamically change from dry to wet, but this must also be done carefully near refinement boundaries. We discuss these issues in the context of Riemann-solver-based finite volume methods for tsunami modelling. Several examples are presented using the GeoClaw software, and sample codes are available to accompany the paper. The techniques discussed also apply to a variety of other geophysical flows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-289
Number of pages79
JournalActa Numerica
StatePublished - Apr 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Numerical Analysis
  • General Mathematics


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