Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Those Nuisance Cell Errors and Wedge Depressions

Written by Chris Goodell | Kleinschmidt Associates
Copyright © The RAS Solution.  All rights reserved

If you've been doing some 2D modeling, you most likely have run into what I call nuisance cell errors.  You see them while your model is running and they can really slow down your simulation as the RAS chugs through iterations to try to come to a solution.

The errors here are in the second to last column and are in units of feet.  So as you can see, they are quite small, and normally I wouldn't be too concerned with them.  However, if the errors persist, they can really slow down your simulation time.  Sometimes adding several hours to the overall time, in my experience.  So while the errors are small, there is a need to get rid of them, at least the ones that persist for many timesteps.  

A common cause of nuisance cell errors is what I call "wedge depressions".  In the following figure, notice the wedge of water that sits below a well defined ridge line.  The red arrow points to it.  

As you can see by the blue hydraulic connectivity lines that there is hydraulic connectivity between Cell 1 and Cell 2.  But water fills up cells from the lowest spot, and in Cell 2, this is below the ridge.  So you get a narrow wedge of water (wedge depression) that builds up causing some local fragmentation and a resulting error.  Notice the water just abruptly stops at the cell face between Cell 1 and Cell 2.  Wedge depression doesn't always cause an error (by error, I mean RAS cannot converge on a solution within the error tolerance in 20 iteration tries).  But it did in Cell 2.  Notice Cell 4 has the same wedge depression, but it was not producing errors in this simulation (ahhh, the mysteries of HEC-RAS!).  

Fortunately, the fix for this is easy.  You draw a breakline along the ridge line so that a cell face resides on the ridge line itself.  This removes the low spot (and thus the wedge depression) in Cell 2.  the next figure shows the placement of the breakline (but before enforcement).  In this case, to preserve the spacing of the cells on the north side of the line, I specified a cell center spacing of 55 feet on the breakline (actually, I started with 40 feet, then 50 feet, but these produced the dreaded "red dots".  55 feet worked.)

After a bit more tweaking of the breakline alignment, here is the result with the breakline enforced and the wedge depression eliminated.  Notice without the wedge depression, flow is able to move more naturally towards the upper left from what used to be Cell 1.  Oh yeah...and no more nuisance cell errors!  

Yes...there's still some more fragmentation that could be addressed, but this is early on in the simulation and my objective is to ultimately present the max ws maps.  So my concern at this point in the simulation is to have decent results with fast simulation times.  I'm not concerned with little bits of fragmentation that don't throw errors.  


  1. Thanks for this post Chris.
    I agree that while we normally can't wait to get started, I've found that a spending a bit more time to add breaklines along ridges and thalwegs in areas where you expect flows to occur tends to reduce the amount of iterations and unresolved solutions. There can be a considerable impact on run time if you can remove a lot of the commonly thrown ones.

  2. This is great advice Chris. Another thing is often ras will get stuck at the 20 iteration without flagging the problem cells. I'll change the 2D options to a lower iteration # (like 3-5) and Ras will be more likely to spit out the cell numbers it is struggling with. Then after addressing those put it back at the default.

  3. Hi Chris. I know this is OT, I have a question regarding a ras Mapper Option. I saw that the default option for XS River stations is Feet, even if in my models I alway use the metric system. This option changes just the 1D xs river stations (which is a sort of "name" of the cross section) and doesn't affect any of the results, I am right? I mean, if this option is in feet, does the results (and the computation) remains in meter?
    Moreover, has this option any effects in a 2D model?
    Thank you...

  4. Hi Chris, I understand my question is OT... I saw in the ras mapper that the option XS River station is by default sets in feet, even if in my project I use the metric system. I'm wondering if this option only affect the river station for 1D ( as I understand the river station is a sort of cross section's name) and doesn't affect in any way the simulation results. Am I right? In case of a purely 2D model, has this option any effects?

    Thanks in advance.
    Miguel Chicharito Hernandez

  5. Thanks, Chris, I've had this same problem.

    Is there a way to quickly identify where those problem cells are? For example, cell 79 in your post, I can locate view the XY attributes of the computation points, but I can't seem to figure out how to zoom-to or highlight the problematic cell.

    1. There are at least 2 ways to "find" a cell. In the geometry schematic, if you left click on the 2D area, you should see an option to find cell. In RAS Mapper, with the 2D Area layer turned on and active (click on the label of the layer so that it turns a pink color), if you right click on the 2D area you'll get an option to "find".

  6. Hi Chris, when I select the option to 'Draw Perpendicular Face Velocities' I notice that there are negative values. Are the negative values in reference to the direction of flow in and out of a cell or do they mean something different since the arrow should depict the flow direction?



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