An Overview of Source-to-Sink Numerical Modeling Approaches & Applications
Over the last decade, Source to Sink (S2S) model development has employed three different approaches. The first uses a “linked analytical (& sometimes empirical) equations model” that describe key surface dynamics, so as to handle moving boundaries while honoring the conservation of mass. Changes in sea level, climate, and tectonic forces can be varied, using empirical relationships or parameters. Examples include SEQUENCE4 by Mike Steckler to study how stratigraphy develops on a tectonically active Eel River margin, and MarsSim by Alan Howard et al. to predict the development of morphology on continental shelves with fluctuations in sea level.
The second approach employs a single “linked modular numerical model”, where the various transport processes are matched with appropriate fluid dynamics and geo-dynamics, so as to cover the full range of S2S. This approach uses an “uber” model of high complexity, often written in a single computer language, where the various modules can employ different levels of sophistication in their physics and in their temporal and spatial resolution. Examples include HydroTrend, by Albert Kettner et al., used to predict the flux of sediment delivered off the landscape across the global range of environmental conditions; and SedFlux, by Eric Hutton et al., used to study the controlling factors in the development of continental margins.
The third approach remains in its infancy and can be described as a community effort to link models and data through a "computational framework and architecture". The approach allows modelers to follow some simple community-developed protocols that then allow models, written in virtually any computer language, to be linked. Thus the needs of a given geological problem can be matched with selection of modules from a library of open-source models, with due consideration of the appropriate time and space resolution requirements. The Community Surface Dynamic Modeling System (CSDMS) involving contributions from hundreds of scientists is perhaps the best effort dealing with geological problems, providing platform independence, and the use of distributed or massively-parallel high performance computers where required. Other examples include the ESMF (climate-ocean applications), OpenMI (hydrological applications), and CSTMS (coastal-estuarine applications).
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90090©2009 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, Denver, Colorado, June 7-10, 2009