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The Charles E. Via, Jr.

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


MEMORANDUM
TO: Dr. Nina Stark
FROM: Luis Zambrano-Cruzatty
DATE: March 31, 2017
RE: CEE 5864 Coastal and Estuarine Morphodynamics: Midterm Exam

As you requested I choose the paper by De Vriend (2001) which title is Long-Term
Morphological Prediction. Bellow, you will find my critical review for the midterm exam.

1. Abstract

In this paper I summarized the main topics from De Vriend (2001), I also prepared a critical
review of the weaknesses and strengths of the paper. Since De Vriend (2001) gave an
informative description of the state of the Art of the long-term morphological predictions, I also
compared his statements with more actual papers related to the same topic.

2. Introduction

Assessment of long-term morphological changes in coastal and estuarine morphodynamics


is necessary for several reasons, including touristic beach development, long-term change
due to human-made structures for maintenance coast estimation, development of supporting
information for policy making due to climate change, etcetera (Capobianco et al., 1999; de
Vriend, 2001). However, De Vriend (2001) states that long-term changes are often difficult to
predict, because the external forcing follows a stochastic behavior and because the non-
linearity of the different equilibrium states put limits to its applicability.

The paper discusses the possibilities of applying large-scale models to predict morphological
changes but with a focus on the weaknesses by which different uncertainties affects the final
results of a given model approach. Three most important aspects are relevant for long-term
analysis, (1) behavior of analysis, (2) Field experiments, and (3) numerical modeling, which
are also discussed by De Vriend (2001). The paper also discusses the fact by which a model
can be over-calibrated if for its construction and calibration the same data is used. Although
the journal summarizes state of the art in long-term modeling, it was published in 2001. Hence,
its central claims could be not updated. Here I used other recent studies to figure out how
much of the statements in the De Vriend (2001) remain valid or have been challenged with
time.

3. Long-Term, Large-Scale Definition

De Vriend (2001) dedicated a section to define and explain the definition of long-term and
large-scale scenarios. The term long-term refers to the amount of time greater than the time
required for a given aspect of the coastal morphodynamic coupled behavior (e.g. Time of a
process, time in which a force can act, or the time in which a morphological feature evolves).
The paper refers to a time scale related to force driving (e.g. recurring interval of storms).
Therefore, from the definition provided here a long-term scale is one in which the time of
analysis is greater than the time related to a given force driving phenomena. However, other

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The Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
authors provide specific time scales to refer long-term study, for instance, Capobianco et al.
(1999) state that long-term analysis relates to a time greater than ten years, Brommer &
Bochev-van der Burgh (2009) made a study for a time larger than 100 years.

The large-scale concept has a relation between Long-term behavior. Therefore, there is a
space of time and scale for which both parameters are coupled. Otherwise, very large
temporal scale produce slowly varying details, and large- scale produces rapidly carrying
large-scale patterns (de Vriend, 2001). Figure 1 illustrates the concept proposed in the studied
paper.

Zone of coupled behavior


between Large-scale and
Long-term analysis

Figure 1. Coupling of spatial and temporal scale. After De Vriend (2001).

From my point of view the definition given by De Vriend (2001) is more general, and avoid
bias when its necessary to characterize a time scale as long-term. It also helps to understand
the scope in which the magnitude of the problem is strongly related to the time of analysis;
this means that probably its necessary to perform temporal-spatial convergence analysis in
this kind of models. A weakness of the paper in this sense is that it not provides more detail
in how to assess this issue in a mathematical way, it only focuses on describing the definition.
4. Comparison between the State of the Art described by De Vriend (2001) and recent
descriptions

The description of the state of the art by De Vriend (2001) is a strength of this paper since it
addressed the main factors about long-term modeling exhaustively. Following I will review and
compare some of them with a more recent article about the same topic.

De Vriend (2001) states that the models are focused in short and midterm analysis and that
although some improvement had been done in fully 3D simulations, there were still some
deficiencies for long-term predictions. The primary weaknesses are: 1) mostly deterministic
models, 2) modelers used to use representative conditions instead of statistical approaches,

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3) the non-linearity character of the system significantly affects the results and can impose
non-predictable limits, and 4) the uncertainty embedded into the data. His conclusion on this
issue is that long-term modeling needs more work to accurately predict and validate
morphodynamics predictions in coastal and estuarine environments.

When comparing this description of the state of the art with more recent papers, it can be
realized that some of the statements remain valid. For example, Brommer & Bochev-van der
Burgh (2009) states that uncertainties embedded in the data still being a problem, they
proposed to approach this issue using long-term probabilistic scenarios, as it was recognized
previously with more detail by De Vriend (2001).

A more recent paper using the empirical orthogonal function addressed the long-term
prediction of morphological changes (Alvarez & Pan, 2016). Although this article deals more
with the development of this particular method it confirms more of the critical points of view
claimed by De Vriend (2001). For example, the paper is focused in an extrapolating technic
to predict the morphological changes in a particular scenario and compares the predicted
change with the actual measurements in the field. Nonetheless, none of the relevant facts
stated by De Vriend (2001) were covered in this study. It seems from other studies
(Karunarathna, 2011; Karunarathna & Reeve, 2008; Reeve, Horrillo-Caraballo, & Magar,
2008; Styles et al., 2016) that the previous claims stated by De Vriend remain valid.

5. Sources and Types of Uncertainties

De Vriend (2001) described three types of uncertainties that should be addressed in future
research and provides examples of how these uncertainties can affect the result of a long-
term analysis significantly. A weakness about this in the paper is that some examples are not
well described on how accurately some uncertainties change the result and in what extent.
However, probably the core of the article is the description of these uncertainties and the
research that should be performed to address this problem. My work does not provide detail
in the examples mentioned by De Vriend (2001).

Before describing the uncertainties, it is important to define the types of systems that De
Vriend recognized. Since morphology is the result of a non-linear dynamical system, the
system theory can be applied. Systems can behave forced or free.

Forced behavior is one in which the output is a consequence of the forcing in the system, on
the other hand, there is no relationship between the input and the output in a free system.
Although the definition of a free system is well explained, the author stated that some features
are more rapidly triggered, (e.g. dunes, ripples, and others) during high energetic storm
events. Therefore, he assumed that the time scaling of both, the input and the system, are
different and concluded that the system is free in this conditions. From my point of view this
claim requires more prove since the input in the storm situation is reflected in the change of
dunes and ripples; hence, the output is not independent of the input.

De Vriend (2001) identified the sources of uncertainties. Table 1 summarizes the uncertainties
and its importance in the results of the long-term prediction. Additionally, Table 1 provides the
main criteria given by De Vriend for research focused in each uncertainty.

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Uncertainty in the forcing

Previously it was discussed the meaning of forcing in this paper. De Vriend (2001)
states that more elaboration in the research has been conducted using a probability of
failure approach. The following questions should be answered to understand forcing
uncertainty entirely.

1. How to construct realistic input with statistical parameters from a morphological


point of view to describe the input climate?
2. How to model the expected morphological evolution given the uncertainty?
3. How to estimate the uncertainty in the output, given the uncertainty in the input?
4. How to explore the ensemble -dimension in complex real life situations?

De Vriend (2001) suggested that the second and third question are straight forward
following a simple statistical approach. Questions 1 and 4 are more related to how
long the time series should be, to reach global equilibrium of the forcing.
Table 1. Summary of the uncertainty and its importance in the prediction of the long-term morphological
assessment.
Uncertainty Importance in the results Research strategy related
to the uncertainty
Forcing It is not well understood how this uncertainty Questions 1 to 4 addressed
affects the final result. A statistical approach the relevant topics about this
can be useful, but usually, Montecarlo uncertainty.
simulations are extremely time-consuming to
estimate this uncertainty.
Process Due to non-linearity of the system, the Use of process-oriented
predictability limits of the process can not be numerical modeling.
assessed. The system may jump between Combination of linear, and
different equilibrium states, which means non-linear models.
different answers. Construct aggregated
model concepts.
Parameters Parameters such as bed roughness usually Measuring the predictive
and Data are over simplified. Spatial variability is not skills of the model being used
well represented.

Uncertainty in the Process

One of the biggest problems regarding the uncertainty in the process is related to the
aggregation to deal with predictable limits.

The research strategy to process predictability should focus on the use of process-
oriented numerical modeling; it might give a range of results to understand the
behavior of the process. When the model is fitted with an observed state, the initial
conditions can be assessed using a genetic algorithm. However, more research is
needed to verify the validity of models using the frequency domain as De Vriend
suggested it. Additionally, a combination of linear, and non-linear models can be used

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to test the effects of increasing physical complexity in the model. The final step is to
construct aggregated model concepts to have similar and consistent results in different
aggregation levels (de Vriend, 2001).

Uncertainty in the parameters and data

Parameters such as bed roughness usually are over simplified. They primarily depend
on short, and large-scale behavior, and adds a considerable amount of uncertainty to
the model.

De Vriend (2001) used an example from theoretical analysis of sensitivity in the


transported sediment flow, to show that some variables require more description than
others if they affect the results larger. For instance, sediments are assumed to be
uniform, this is far away from reality, especially in regimes of turbulence and rapid
change in the gradient which usually leads to soarting by grain size and density.
Equilibrium in the bed topography is mainly sensitive to grain size; therefore, there is
no sense in adding more data of the same quality to the grain size dataset. The output
uncertainty will not be decreased doing this.

The research strategy proposed by De Vriend (2001) should focus on measuring the
predictive skills of the model being used. More experience on this issue can be learned
from other fields (regression analysis and artificial neural networks). It's important to
take care of over-fitting the model.

6. Conclusions

De Vriend (2001) provide an excellent informative and descriptive review of the


uncertainties regarding long-term predictions of morphological changes in estuarine
and coastal environments.
The state of the art about long-term predictions described by De Vriend (2001) proved
to remain valid since there is not too much research regarding the assessing of the
uncertainties described.
The definition of the long-term analysis provided by De Vriend (2001) appears to be
more accurate than using a given time. However, its necessary to describe a method
to assess numerically the time required to achieve long-term and large-scale coupled
behavior.

7. Recommendations

The recommendations suggested by De Vriend (2001) opened a new field of research


in the prediction of long-term morphological changes. Table 1 gives a good summary
of interesting questions that continue without an answer. The importance of long-term
predictions encompasses a wide variety of problems that could save resources in a
vast range of ways, therefore assessing the uncertainties in the final prediction of
morphological changes is of great importance for validating the models and its results.

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Do not hesitate to contact me if further information about this assignment is needed. You can
reach me using the following contact info.

Mobile: +1 540 449-7740


e-mail: luisez@vt.edu

Luis E. Zambrano-Cruzatty
References
Alvarez, F., & Pan, S. (2016). Predicting coastal morphological changes with EOF method.
Water Science and Engineering, 9(1), 1420. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wse.2015.10.003
Brommer, M. B., & Bochev-van der Burgh, L. M. (2009). Sustainable Coastal Zone
Management: A Concept for Forecasting Long-Term and Large-Scale Coastal Evolution.
Journal of Coastal Research, 251, 181188. https://doi.org/10.2112/07-0909.1
Capobianco, M., DeVriend, H. J., Nicholls, R. J., & Stive, M. J. E. (1999). Coastal Area Impact
and Vulnerability Assessment: The Point of View of a Morphodynamic Modeller. Journal of
Coastal Research, 15(3), 701716. https://doi.org/10.1016/0160-2527(90)90004-M
de Vriend, H. J. (2001). Long-term morphological prediction. River, Coastal, and Estuarine
Morphodynamics, 163190.
Karunarathna, H. (2011). Modelling the long-term morphological evolution of the Clyde Estuary,
Scotland, UK. Journal of Coastal Conservation, 15(4), 499507.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11852-010-0138-8
Karunarathna, H., & Reeve, D. (2008). A Boolean Approach to Prediction of Long-Term
Evolution of Estuary Morphology. Journal of Coastal Research, 2(2), 5161.
https://doi.org/10.2112/05-0542.1
Reeve, D. E., Horrillo-Caraballo, J. M., & Magar, V. (2008). Statistical analysis and forecasts of
long-term sandbank evolution at Great Yarmouth, UK. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf
Science, 79(3), 387399. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2008.04.016
Styles, R., Brown, M., Brutsch, K., Li, H., Beck, T. M., & Snchez, A. (2016). Long-Term
Morphological Modeling of Barrier Island Tidal Inlets. Journal of Marine Science and
Engineering, 4(4), 65. https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse4040065

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