Computational Geosciences

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 81–86 | Cite as

A numerical method for the solution of the nonlinear turbulent one-dimensional free surface flow equations

Original Paper


Free surface flow of an incompressible fluid over a shallow plane/undulating horizontal bed is characteristically turbulent due to disturbances generated by the bed resistance and other causes. The governing equations of such flows in one dimension, for finite amplitude of surface elevation over the bed, are the Continuity Equation and a highly nonlinear Momentum Equation of order three. The method developed in this paper introduces the “discharge” variable q = η U, where η = elevation of the free surface above the bed level, and U = average stream-wise forward velocity. By this substitution, the continuity equation becomes a linear first-order PDE and the momentum equation is transformed after introduction of a small approximation in the fifth term. Next, it is shown by an invertibility argument that q can be a function of η: q = F(η), rendering the momentum equation as a first order, second degree ODE for F(η), that can be be integrated by the Runge-Kutta method. The continuity equation then takes the form of a first order evolutionary PDE that can be integrated by a Lax-Wendroff type of scheme for the temporal evolution of the surface elevation η. The method is implemented for two particular cases: when the initial elevation is triangular with vertical angle of 120 and when it has a sinusoidal form. The computations exhibit the physically interesting feature that the frontal portion of the propagating wave undergoes a sharp jump followed by tumbling over as a breaker. Compared to other discretization methods, the application of the Runge-Kutta and an extended version of the Lax-Wendroff scheme is much easier.


Nonlinear turbulent free surface flow equations Free surface elevation Depth averaged velocity Discharge Fourth order Runge-Kutta method Lax-Wendroff method Wave breaking 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SaltLake CityIndia

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