China Ocean Engineering

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 424–435 | Cite as

A Comparative Study of Numerical Models for Wave Propagation and Setup on Steep Coral Reefs

  • Shan-ju Zhang
  • Liang-sheng ZhuEmail author
  • Kai Zou


Complex factors including steep slopes, intense wave breaking, large bottom friction and remarkable wave setup should be considered while studying wave propagation over coral reefs, and how to simulate wave propagation and setup on coral reefs efficiently has become a primary focus. Several wave models can be used on coral reefs as have been published, but further testing and comparison of the reliability and applicability of these models are needed. A comparative study of four numerical wave models (i.e., FUNWAVE-TVD, Coulwave, NHWAVE and ZZL18) is carried out in this paper. These models’ governing equations and numerical methods are compared and analyzed firstly to obtain their differences and connections; then the simulation effects of the four wave models are tested in four representative laboratory experiments. The results show that all four models can reasonably predict the spectrum transformation. Coulwave, NHWAVE and ZZL18 can predict the wave height variation more accurately; Coulwave and FUNWAVE-TVD tend to underestimate wave setup on the reef top induced by spilling breaker, while NHWAVE and ZZL18 can predict wave setup relatively accurately for all types of breakers; NHWAVE and ZZL18 can predict wave reflection by steep reef slope more accurately. This study can provide evidence for choosing suitable models for practical engineering or establishing new models.

Key words

coral reefs steep slope Boussinesq equations wave propagation and setup wave breaking numerical simulation comparative study 


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The authors sincerely thank the reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions on the first draft of the paper. We also thank professor YAO Yu and WEN Hongjie for providing laboratory data.


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Copyright information

© Chinese Ocean Engineering Society and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Civil Engineering and TransportationSouth China University of TechnologyGuangzhouChina

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