Ocean Dynamics & Modeling

ocean modeling

PNNL's Ocean Dynamics and Modeling group studies coastal processes including coastal circulation, storm surges, extreme waves, tsunamis, sediment transport, and nutrient-macroalgal dynamics. 

The Ocean Dynamics and Modeling group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) studies coastal processes such as coastal circulation, storm surges, extreme waves, tsunamis, sediment transport, and nutrient-macroalgal dynamics using a wide range of numerical models, reanalysis data, and field measurements. These coastal processes affect current and wave conditions that need to be assessed for optimum marine-hydrokinetic energy device siting. Researchers from the Ocean Dynamics and Modeling group apply multiscale and multiresolution modeling approaches to investigate the impacts of climate changes, which occur at regional and global scales, on coastal processes at local scales. A set of high-resolution coastal hydrodynamic models have been developed for broad research topics and geographic regions.


Research Areas

  • Coastal hydrodynamics: Salish Sea, Cook Inlet, Western Passage, Delaware Bay, Chesapeake Bay, Columbia River, Mississippi River, and Gulf of Mexico
  • Wave and tidal energy: West Coast, Alaskan Coast, Hawaii, Pacific Islands, Salish Sea, Cook Inlet, and Western Passage
  • Offshore wind energy: U.S. mid-Atlantic and New England coast
  • Coastal hazards: Salish Sea, Gulf of Mexico, Delaware Bay, and mid-Atlantic coast, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Sea
  • Macroalgae and water quality: Saco Bay, ME, Hood Canal, WA, West Coast, Gulf of Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Caribbean Sea
  • Plastic fate and transport: Delaware River, Mississippi River, Los Angeles River, Sacramento River and Columbia River
Simulated dye transport in Sequim Bay, WA, using a high-resolution coastal ocean model FVCOM. The Ocean Dynamics Modeling team developed a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model for the Sequim Bay to investigate the effects of tidal energy extraction on water exchange in the semi-enclosed bay. The Sequim Bay hydrodynamic and transport model can be also used to guide the optimal site for tidal turbine testing in Sequim Bay, as well as evaluate the effect of climate change on the seasonal variabilities of coastal circulation and wetland habitat.
This animation depicts simulated significant wave height on the U.S. West Coast using a multi-nested grids modeling approach.