Physics-Capturing Discretizations for Spectral Wind-Wave Models

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This paper discusses the discretization methods that have been commonly employed to solve the wave action balance equation, and that have gained a renewed interest with the widespread use of unstructured grids for third-generation spectral wind-wave models. These methods are the first-order upwind finite difference and first-order vertex-centered upwind finite volume schemes for the transport of wave action in geographical space. The discussion addresses the derivation of these schemes from a different perspective. A mathematical framework for mimetic discretizations based on discrete calculus is utilized herein. A key feature of this algebraic approach is that the process of exact discretization is segregated from the process of interpolation, the latter typically involved in constitutive relations. This can help gain insight into the performance characteristics of the discretization method. On this basis, we conclude that the upwind finite difference scheme captures the wave action flux conservation exactly, which is a plus for wave shoaling. In addition, we provide a justification for the intrinsic low accuracy of the vertex-centred upwind finite volume scheme, due to the physically inaccurate but common flux constitutive relation, and we propose an improvement to overcome this drawback. Finally, by way of a comparative demonstration, a few test cases is introduced to establish the ability of the considered methods to capture the relevant physics on unstructured triangular meshes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number52
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Discrete calculus
  • Mimetic discretization
  • Unstructured mesh
  • Wave action balance equation


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