Comparing approaches for numerical modelling of tsunami generation by deformable submarine slides

Rebecca C. Smith*, Jon Hill, Gareth S. Collins, Matthew D. Piggott, Stephan C. Kramer, Samuel D. Parkinson, Cian Wilson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tsunami generated by submarine slides are arguably an under-considered risk in comparison to earthquake-generated tsunami. Numerical simulations of submarine slide-generated waves can be used to identify the important factors in determining wave characteristics. Here we use Fluidity, an open source finite element code, to simulate waves generated by deformable submarine slides. Fluidity uses flexible unstructured meshes combined with adaptivity which alters the mesh topology and resolution based on the simulation state, focussing or reducing resolution, when and where it is required. Fluidity also allows a number of different numerical approaches to be taken to simulate submarine slide deformation, free-surface representation, and wave generation within the same numerical framework. In this work we use a multi-material approach, considering either two materials (slide and water with a free surface) or three materials (slide, water and air), as well as a sediment model (sediment, water and free surface) approach. In all cases the slide is treated as a viscous fluid. Our results are shown to be consistent with laboratory experiments using a deformable submarine slide, and demonstrate good agreement when compared with other numerical models. The three different approaches for simulating submarine slide dynamics and tsunami wave generation produce similar waveforms and slide deformation geometries. However, each has its own merits depending on the application. Mesh adaptivity is shown to be able to reduce the computational cost without compromising the accuracy of results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-140
Number of pages16
JournalOcean Modelling
Early online date28 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016

Bibliographical note

© 2016, The Authors.


  • Adaptive mesh
  • Numerical modelling
  • Submarine slide
  • Tsunami
  • Validation

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