We are building a numerical ice-ocean model using the finite element method to solve the governing equations on an adaptive unstructured mesh.
The first generation of ocean models was initiated by the seminal article published in 1969 by Dr Kirk Bryan in the Journal of Computational Physics (4, 347-376). Though ocean modelling made huge progress since Bryan's pioneering work, the basic aspects of most models have remained similar to those of Bryan's: finite difference techniques are still implemented on structured grids.
This approach is believed to be out of date, as more efficient and accurate numerical methods have been developed and successfully used in many domains of computational fluid mechanics. It is high time for numerical oceanography to take advantage of these developments. In particular, unstructured mesh should be resorted to, as they offer much more flexibility than structured ones. Since it is most probably impossible to modify step by step a structured-grid model to obtain an unstructured-grid one, a revolution - rather than an evolution - is needed in ocean model design, paving the way for the second generation of ocean models.
We started exploratory research work in unstructured-mesh numerical oceanography in 1999. However, a major funding for a 5 year period of time (*), starting in September 2004, did boost the development of our second-generation ice-ocean model (SLIM). To know more about the work that started in September 2004, you can view excerpts of the relevant proposal in PDF format. Since then, various versions of SLIM have been applied to a number of domains, including the Arctic sea ice, the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Tanganyika, and the whole Great Barrier Reef (Australia) as well as subdomains of the latter (Rattray Island, Cleveland Bay, etc.). In addition, SLIM is used in the framework of an Interuniversity Attraction Pole focusing on the Scheldt Basin and the adjacent coastal zone (Timothy).
Another major project (**) started in October 2010, that will allow us to pursue the development of SLIM.
*: Contract ARC 04/09-316, Actions de Recherche Concertée, Communauté Française de Belgique.
**: Contract ARC 10/15-028, Actions de Recherche Concertée, Communauté Française de Belgique.