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The Coastal and Marine Geology Program hosted a Community Sediment-Transport Modeling Workshop in Woods Hole, Mass., on June 22nd and 23rd aimed at establishing community models for coastal sediment-transport processes. Community models are freely available computer codes that often include contributions from many researchers and, ideally, are widely tested and applied. They have been very successful in other Earth sciences, including groundwater studies, climate modeling, and physical oceanography. USGS conveners Chris Sherwood, Rich Signell, and Courtney Harris noted that there are no such models generally accepted by the marine modeling community and hoped that development of such a model would enhance everyone's ability to use sediment-transport models as research tools.
Sixty scientists and engineers from government, academia, and private industry attended the workshop. Sue Barton (Woods Hole Field Center) heroically made government travel arrangements for visitors from all over the globe, including Denmark, the Netherlands, the U.K., Australia, Korea, and even far-flung Cambridge, Mass.
The first day of the workshop was an information exchange. In the morning session, plenary presentations highlighted the challenges to understanding processes associated with cohesive sediments, non-cohesive sediments, coastal waves, and coastal circulation. In the afternoon, participants described representative examples of existing deterministic sediment-transport modeling systems and reported on the progress and lessons of three ongoing community-modeling efforts.
The second day of the workshop was devoted to exploring the major issues and directions that we should take as a community. During the morning, five working groups met independently to address the same two questions: What is limiting our ability to simulate sediment transport realistically? And, what is limiting our ability to use models as scientific tools?
It was the consensus of the workshop participants that we need a better fundamental understanding of the physical processes that control sediment transport, such as bottom roughness, aggregation and disaggregation of particles, erosion and deposition, and bed consolidation. Advancing the understanding of such basic physical processes is beyond the scope of the modeling project, but a successful community model would help researchers test emerging, competing descriptions of those processes. At the moment, there are no models that feature wide use and acceptance by the community, freely available code, state-of-the-art hydrodynamic and sediment algorithms with modern, modular coding, comprehensive documentation, and demonstrated performance on a suite of community-defined test cases. A significant effort is warranted to make models more usable by the research community and to test available and developing models. The community modeling effort should be coordinated by an impartial organization with long-term stability. The USGS is one candidate organization, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have overlapping interests, and interagency cooperation will be important.
All attendees enjoyed perfect June weather on Cape Cod and the hospitality of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, whose softball players graciously permitted a clambake in center field.
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