Unstructured-mesh modeling of the Congo river-to-sea continuum

Yoann Le Bars, Valentin Vallaeys, ELC Deleersnijder, Emmanuel Hanert, Loren Carrere, Claire Channelière

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


With the second largest outflow in the world and one of the widest hydrological basins, the Congo River is of a major importance both locally and globally. However, relatively few studies have been conducted on its hydrology, as compared to other great rivers such as the Amazon, Nile, Yangtze, or Mississippi. The goal of this study is therefore to help fill this gap and provide the first high-resolution simulation of the Congo river-estuary-coastal sea continuum. To this end, we are using a discontinuous-Galerkin finite element marine model that solves the two-dimensional depth-averaged shallow water equations on an unstructured mesh. To ensure a smooth transition from river to coastal sea, we have considered a model that encompasses both hydrological and coastal ocean processes. An important difficulty in setting up this model was to find data to parameterize and validate it, as it is a rather remote and understudied area. Therefore, an important effort in this study has been to establish a methodology to take advantage of all the data sources available including nautical charts that had to be digitalized. The model surface elevation has then been validated with respect to an altimetric database. Model results suggest the existence of gyres in the vicinity of the river mouth that have never been documented before. The effect of those gyres on the Congo River dynamics has been further investigated by simulating the transport of Lagrangian particles and computing the water age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-603
Number of pages15
JournalOcean Dynamics: theoretical, computational oceanography and monitoring
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Multi-scale modelling
  • Congo river-to-sea continuum
  • Tides
  • Water age
  • Satellite altimetry


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