Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Initial Conditions Trick

Written by Chris Goodell, P.E., D. WRE | WEST Consultants
Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

I’ve mentioned many times on this blog and in class about the importance of having your initial conditions flow match your first time step flow, when running an unsteady flow model.  As with any “rule” in RAS modeling, there are exceptions to this, but generally speaking, if your first timestep flow is “X”, then your initial conditions flow should also be “X”. 
This is generally very easy to do-if you have a single reach.  The hard part is just remembering to do it.  So, if you know you’re going to be changing your initial flow a lot, maybe while testing different hydrologic scenarios, or just trying to stabilize your model, you can save yourself some time and extra mouse clicks by leaving the initial flow cell blank.  By leaving it blank, you’re telling RAS to just use the first timestep flow provided in the flow hydrograph.  Give it a try, it works great.
This works perfectly for single reach systems.  For more complex systems, there is a catch.  For dendritic systems, this trick only applies to the upstream end of Rivers, not at junctions.  For looped systems, this trick only applies to the upstream end of Rivers that do not originate as distributaries from a junction.  Don’t worry, if you fail to enter an initial flow value where one is required, RAS will tell you about this when you try to compute.