High-fidelity numerical modeling of the Upper Mississippi River under extreme flood condition

Ali Khosronejad, Trung Le, Petra DeWall, Nicole Bartelt, Solomon Woldeamlak, Xiaolei Yang, Fotis Sotiropoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


We present data-driven numerical simulations of extreme flooding in a large-scale river coupling coherent-structure resolving hydrodynamics with bed morphodynamics under live-bed conditions. The study area is a ∼ 3.2 km long and ∼ 300 m wide reach of the Upper Mississippi River, near Minneapolis MN, which contains several natural islands and man-made hydraulic structures. We employ the large-eddy simulation (LES) and bed-morphodynamic modules of the Virtual Flow Simulator (VFS-Rivers) model, a recently developed in-house code, to investigate the flow and bed evolution of the river during a 100-year flood event. The coupling of the two modules is carried out via a fluid-structure interaction approach using a nested domain approach to enhance the resolution of bridge scour predictions. We integrate data from airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), sub-aqueous sonar apparatus on-board a boat and in-situ laser scanners to construct a digital elevation model of the river bathymetry and surrounding flood plain, including islands and bridge piers. A field campaign under base-flow condition is also carried out to collect mean flow measurements via Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) to validate the hydrodynamic module of the VFS-Rivers model. Our simulation results for the bed evolution of the river under the 100-year flood reveal complex sediment transport dynamics near the bridge piers consisting of both scour and refilling events due to the continuous passage of sand dunes. We find that the scour depth near the bridge piers can reach to a maximum of ∼ 9 m. The data-driven simulation strategy we present in this work exemplifies a practical simulation-based-engineering-approach to investigate the resilience of infrastructures to extreme flood events in intricate field-scale riverine systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-113
Number of pages17
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Bed morphodynamics
  • Coupled flow-bed simulation
  • Data-driven simulation
  • Extreme flood event
  • Large-eddy simulation
  • The Mississippi River
  • Turbulent flow

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