Quick start guide for tsunami modeling


As with all of Clawpack, this code is provided as a research and teaching tool with no guarantee of suitability for any particular purpose, and no liability on the part of the authors. See the License for more details.

This is a brief outline of how to set up and run GeoClaw to model a real event, with pointers to various useful data sources.

As always, the best way to get started is to copy a working example and modify it to do what you want. We’ll start with the example in $CLAW/apps/tsunami/chile2010 of Clawpack 4.6.

Copy this directory somewhere new with an appropriate name.

As an example we will convert this to a code modeling the Great Tohoku Tsunami of 11 March 2011, and will assume an environment variable has been set so that $TOHOKU points to the directory. This is easily done by going into this directory and typing (at the Unix prompt $):

$ export TOHOKU=`pwd`

Get bathymetry and topography

You need one or more files that contain both bathymetry and topography on a single rectangular grid of points (generally in lat-long coordinates). Bathymetry is underwater topography. Here (and in the code) we refer to both as topo. In general these files have negative values of z to indicate distance below sea level for bathymetry, and positive values of z to indicate height above sea level on shore. But some files have these switched. See Topography data for more details on the formats GeoClaw can handle.

You probably need two types of topo files: fairly coarse resolution over a large area of an ocean, and finer scale over one or more small regions: those where you want to model inundation and perhaps also for the source region where the tsunami was generated.

Coarse-scale topo can be obtained from various on-line databases. The easiest is the NGDC GEODAS Design-a-grid website. Simply type in the latitude and longitude of the edges of the region you need.

Choose the ETOPO 1-minute Global Relief database and then select the grid resolution you want.

Typically 4 arc-minute or even 10-minute resolution is sufficient for tsunami propagation across the ocean. Recall that 1 degree of latitude is 111 km and 1 degree of longitude is about the same at the equator, so 4 minutes is roughly 7.5 km. You can also select 1- or 2-minute data.

Finer-scale topo for much of the US coast is also available from this website; select the “US Coastal Relief Model Grids” database.

To get an idea of what region you need to get topo, it’s often easiest to use Google Earth, which shows latitude and longitude.

For the Tohoku event, we’ll use 10-minute topo over the region from 115E to 30W and from 15N to 50N, covering part of the north Pacific. Type these coordinates into Design-a-grid and choose the 10-minute grid and the ASCII Raster format. It should tell you this will create a grid with 211 latitude cells and 571 longitude cells. (Points would be more accurate than cells, since these are equally spaced grid points including the end points in each direction.)

Select ASCII Raster Format (with header).

Give your grid the name npacific and then click “Submit”.

On the next page click on “Compress and Retrieve Your Grid”. You do not need to check any of the boxes on this page.

On the next page click on “Retrieve Compressed File”.

This should save a gzipped tar-file called npacific-1257.tgz (the number may be different).

Move that file into your $TOHOKU directory and then unpack it:

$ cd $TOHOKU
$ mv ~/Downloads/npacific-1257.tgz .  # or from whereever it is
$ tar -zxvf npacific-1257.tgz

This uncompresses and untars in verbose mode so it prints out all the files created, something like:

x npacific-1257_data/
x npacific-1257_data/npacific-1257.log
x npacific-1257_data/npacific-1257/
x npacific-1257_data/npacific-1257/npacific-1257.asc
x npacific-1257_data/cdrdas.vol
x npacific-1257_data/readme.txt
x npacific-1257_data/mgd2000.pdf
x npacific-1257_data/mgd77.pdf
x npacific-1257_data/hyd93.pdf
x npacific-1257_data/aro88.pdf
x npacific-1257_data/grd98.pdf
x npacific-1257_data/vct00.pdf
x npacific-1257_data/xyz03.pdf
x npacific-1257_data/help.htm
x npacific-1257_data/gd_ship.gif

Most of the files contain metadata. The actual grid is the .asc file, the one with the longest name, so move that one to this directory:

$ mv npacific-1257_data/npacific-1257/npacific-1257.asc .

The first 6 lines of the .asc file are the header:

$ head -6 npacific-1257.asc
NCOLS   571
NROWS   211
XLLCENTER  115.00000
YLLCENTER  15.00000
CELLSIZE 0.16666667

The next 211 lines each consist of 571 values, the topo value going along one particular latitude. The first line is at northernmost latitude 50 = 15 + 210\times 0.166666667. The last line is at the southernmost latitude 15. On each lines the values correspond to z at points going from west to east, from longitude 115 to 210 = 115 +
570\times 0.16666667. Note that 210E is the same as 150W. In GeoClaw the computational domain will go from xlower = 115 to xupper = 210.

This file is almost in the form required by GeoClaw (with topotype = 3 as described at Topography data). The only problem is that GeoClaw wants the numbers to appear first on the header lines, so you can delete the words before the numbers (which aren’t needed), or move them to the end of the line for future reference. There’s a Python script available if you have Clawpack installed:

$ python
>>> from pyclaw.geotools import topotools
>>> topotools.swapheader('npacific-1257.asc','npacific.asc')
>>> quit()

We’ve simplified the file name too in the process, so it is now called npacific.asc.

You can now delete all the files and directory starting with npacific-1257 unless you want to inspect the metadata:

$ rm -rf npacific-1257*

You may also need to retreive other topo files for particular regions of interest. As an example, suppose we want to look at the tsunami behavior near Hawaii.

To keep the file sizes manageable we’ll just get a 1-minute data from the ETOPO1 database. To study inundation much finer bathymetry would be required.

Use design-a-grid to obtain a 1-minute grid of the area from 161W to 153W and from 18N to 23N. This gives a 481 by 301 grid.

Go through the same process as above to retrieve this grid and create a file hawaii.asc.

There is one additional change that needs to be made in this file. The line

-161.0 xll

containing x at the lower-left corner must be incremented by 360 and changed to

199.0 xll

Since we are using coordiates from 115E to 210E we need to specify the left longitude value in eastern hemisphere coordinates rather than western.

If you want to examine the grids you have obtained, you can use the following in Python:

from pyclaw.plotters import geoplot

T = geoplot.TopoPlotData('npacific.asc')
T.cmin = -5000.
T.cmax = 500.

T.fname = 'hawaii.asc'


This should give a plot similar to


Zooming in near Hawaii shows


Various other attributes of a TopoPlotData object can also be set. Here are the default values:

topotype = 3
cmap = None   # set automatically
cmax = 100.
cmin = -4000.
climits = None
figno = 200
addcolorbar = False
addcontour = False
contour_levels = [0, 0]
xlimits = None
ylimits = None
coarsen = 1
imshow = True
gridedges_show = True
print_fname = True

Setting coarsen to an integer greater than 1 coarsens the grid by that factor in each direction. Setting imshow = False causes pcolor to be used instead, which takes longer to plot but may look nicer.

Specifying topo in setrun.py

The file setrun.py we copied from the chilie2010 directory contains the lines:

# == settopo.data values ==
geodata.topofiles = []
# for topography, append lines of the form
#   [topotype, minlevel, maxlevel, t1, t2, fname]
geodata.topofiles.append([2, 1, 3, 0., 1.e10, \

We wish to change this to use the two topo files we have created. After changing the file, these lines should be:

# == settopo.data values ==
geodata.topofiles = []
# for topography, append lines of the form
#   [topotype, minlevel, maxlevel, t1, t2, fname]
geodata.topofiles.append([3, 1, 3, 0., 1.e10, 'npacific.asc'])
geodata.topofiles.append([3, 1, 3, 0., 1.e10, 'hawaii.asc'])

We have specified two topo files. Each file has topotype 3 and we are allowing at most 3 levels of AMR in the regions covered by each file. Later we will see how to allow more levels in specific regions.

The tsunami source – seafloor motion from an earthquake

We also need to specify how the seafloor moves, which generates the tsunami. This is specified to GeoClaw by providing a dtopo file as described further in the section Topography data. This is a file with a similar structure to a topo file but gives the displacement of the topo over some rectangular grid, possibly at a sequence of different times.

Often earthquake data is specified in the form of a set of fault parameters that describe the slip along a fault plane of some finite size at some depth below the seafloor. A single earthquake may be described by a collection of such fault planes. All of this subsurface slip must be combined to generate the resulting seafloor motion. Ideally this would be done by solving elastic wave equations in the three-dimensional earth, taking into acount the spatially-varying elastic parameters and the irregularity of the seafloor.

The Okada model

In practice, the Okada model is often used to translate slip along one small fault plane into motion of the seafloor. This is essentially a Greens function solution to the problem of a point dislocation in an elastic half space, so it assumes the region of slip is small, the elastic parameters in the earth are constant, and the seafloor is flat. This may not be a great approximation, but given the uncertainty in the true elastic constants and the actual slip in an earthquake, it is generally considered to be accurate enough.

In GeoClaw there are some Python tools in $CLAW/python/pyclaw/geotools/okada.py for applying the Okada model and creating dtopo files from given source parameters.

See also

Earthquake sources: Fault slip and the Okada model contains a better description.

The chile2010 example that we are starting with has a very simple fault model for the source, consisting of a single fault plane with one set of parameters specified in the file usgs100227.cfg:

Fault_Width 100.e3
Fault_Length 450.e3
Slip_Angle 104.0
Dip_Angle 14.0
Strike_Direction 16.
Dislocation 15.0
Epicenter_Latitude -35.826
Epicenter_Longitude -72.668
Focal_Depth 35.e3
mx 100
my 100
ylower -40.0
yupper -30.0
xlower -77.0
xupper -67.0

This is a 450 km by 100 km fault plane with the length oriented at 16 degrees from north (the Strike_Direction). The fault plane is not horizontal but instead dips at 14 degrees from horizontal along the axis oriented with the length. The slip along this plane has a magnitude of 15 m (the Dislocation) and the slip is in the direction 104 degrees from the strike direction (the Slip_Angle, usually called the rake).

The fault plane is 35 km below the surface.

The last 6 lines specify the grid where the seafloor displacement should be specified in the resulting dtopo file. In this a 100 by 100 grid covering the region specified by the last four values.

Currently a good source for the Tohoku event is Preliminary Model III of the UCSB group, which can be found at http://www.geol.ucsb.edu/faculty/ji/big_earthquakes/2011/03/0311_v3/Honshu.html. Scroll to the bottom of that page and click on “SUBFAULT FORMAT”.

Other source models for the same event can be found elsewhere, often in the same format, e.g. the USGS model at http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eqinthenews/2011/usc0001xgp/finite_fault.php.

The subfault model must be converted to sea floor deformation by applying the Okada model to each fault segment and adding together the deformation predicted by each.

See also

In 4.6.3 there is a new version okada2.py and tools in dtopotools.py that give flexibility in specifying subfaults.

Specifying dtopo in setrun.py

The file setrun.py we copied from the chilie2010 directory contains the lines:

# == setdtopo.data values ==
geodata.dtopofiles = []
# for moving topography, append lines of the form:
#   [topotype, minlevel,maxlevel,fname]

We wish to change this to use the dtopo file we created above, so these lines should be changed to:

# == setdtopo.data values ==
geodata.dtopofiles = []
# for moving topography, append lines of the form:
#   [topotype, minlevel,maxlevel,fname]

Note that we are forcing 3 levels of refinement in the region covered by the fault at the initial time. This value should be chosen to insure that the fault region has reasonable resolution. (If fewer than 3 levels of refinement are used, i.e. mxnext < 3, then this will insure that as many levels as available are used in this region.)

Note: Dynamic fault motion, in which the dtopo file contains time-dependent displacements dz, is also supported. Need to document.

Setting other parameters in setrun.py

Several parameters can be adjusted, see Specifying run-time parameters in setrun.py for a description of general Clawpack parameters and Specifying GeoClaw parameters in setrun.py for a description of additional GeoClaw parameters.

For our test problem we will change the following:

The domain size

We choose a domain that extends from the source region to Hawaii, and that is covered by the topo files:

# Lower and upper edge of computational domain:
clawdata.xlower = 140.
clawdata.xupper = 210.

clawdata.ylower = 15.
clawdata.yupper = 50.

The coarse grid

The coarse grid will have a 2-degree resolution:

# Number of grid cells:
clawdata.mx = 35
clawdata.my = 15

The output times

For a first test, let’s plot the solution every half hour for 12 hours:

clawdata.outstyle = 1

if clawdata.outstyle==1:
    # Output nout frames at equally spaced times up to tfinal:
    clawdata.nout = 24
    clawdata.tfinal = 3600.*12

AMR parameters

We will first do a fairly coarse run to get an idea of what time interval we care about near Hawaii:

# max number of refinement levels:
mxnest = 2

# List of refinement ratios at each level (length at least mxnest-1)
clawdata.inratx = [4]
clawdata.inraty = [4]
clawdata.inratt = [4]

This causes refinement by a factor of 4 in both x and y (down to 0.5 degree) and also in time (so 4 steps will be taken on the Level 2 grids for each step on Level 1).

Regions and Gauges

For the first attempt, we will not specify any refinement regions or gauges for output, so give an empty list for each of these parameters:

# == setregions.data values ==
geodata.regions = []
# to specify regions of refinement append lines of the form
#  [minlevel,maxlevel,t1,t2,x1,x2,y1,y2]

# == setgauges.data values ==
geodata.gauges = []
# for gauges append lines of the form  [gaugeno, x, y, t1, t2]

Setting gauges

Gauges can be specified where the solution is recorded at every time step. This is specified in the setrun.py file. The file copied from the chile2010 example contains the lines

# == setgauges.data values ==
geodata.gauges = []
# for gauges append lines of the form  [gaugeno, x, y, t1, t2]
geodata.gauges.append([32412, -86.392, -17.975, 0., 1.e10])

Note that geodaa.gauges is initialized to an empty list and then a list has been appended that specifies a gauge numbered 32412 at longitude -86.392 and latitude -17.975. This is the location of DART buoy 32412 off the coast of Chile. The values of t1 and t2 specified means that this gauge data will be output for all times.

This location is not in our new computational domain, so this line can be deleted. We might want to add one or more lines corresponding to the locations of DART buoys or tide gauges for the new computation. Tide gauges are generally in shallow water and we would need much finer bathymetry than we are using to resolve the flow near a tide gauge.

Let’s add a line for DART buoy 51407, which is near the island of Hawaii:

geodata.gauges.append([51407, 203.484, 19.642, 3600*7., 1.e10])

Note that gauge output is only requested after time t1 = 3600*7 seconds since the tsunami doesn’t reach this gauge until more than 7 hours after the earthquake (which could be determined by first doing a coarse grid simulation).