Also known as
Model type Modular
Model part of larger framework
Note on status model
Date note status model
Incorporated models or components:
Spatial dimensions 3D
Spatial extent Global, Continental, Regional-Scale
Model domain Coastal, Marine
One-line model description The Unstructured Grid Finite Volume Coastal Ocean Model
Extended model description FVCOM is a prognostic, unstructured-grid, finite-volume, free-surface, 3-D primitive equation coastal ocean circulation model developed by UMASSD-WHOI joint efforts. The model consists of momentum, continuity, temperature, salinity and density equations and is closed physically and mathematically using turbulence closure submodels. The horizontal grid is comprised of unstructured triangular cells and the irregular bottom is preseented using generalized terrain-following coordinates. The General Ocean Turbulent Model (GOTM) developed by Burchard’s research group in Germany (Burchard, 2002) has been added to FVCOM to provide optional vertical turbulent closure schemes. FVCOM is solved numerically by a second-order accurate discrete flux calculation in the integral form of the governing equations over an unstructured triangular grid. This approach combines the best features of finite-element methods (grid flexibility) and finite-difference methods (numerical efficiency and code simplicity) and provides a much better numerical representation of both local and global momentum, mass, salt, heat, and tracer conservation. The ability of FVCOM to accurately solve scalar conservation equations in addition to the topological flexibility provided by unstructured meshes and the simplicity of the coding structure has make FVCOM ideally suited for many coastal and interdisciplinary scientific applications.

physical oceanography,

Name Changsheng Chen
Type of contact Model developer
Institute / Organization University of Massachusetts
Postal address 1 706 South Rodney French Blvd
Postal address 2
Town / City Dartmouth
Postal code 02744
State Massachusetts
Country United States
Email address
Phone 508-910-6388
Fax (508) 910-6371

Name Robert Beardsley
Type of contact Model developer
Institute / Organization Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Postal address 1
Postal address 2
Town / City Woods Hole
Postal code 02543
Country United States
Email address
Phone +1 508 289 2536
Fax +1 508 457 2181

Supported platforms
Other platform
Programming language


Other program language
Code optimized Single Processor, Multiple Processors
Multiple processors implemented
Nr of distributed processors
Nr of shared processors
Start year development 2001
Does model development still take place? Yes
If above answer is no, provide end year model development
Code development status Active
When did you indicate the 'code development status'? 2020
Model availability As code
Source code availability
(Or provide future intension)
Through web repository
Source web address
Source csdms web address
Program license type Other
Program license type other FVCOM End User License Agreement University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth
Memory requirements --
Typical run time --

Describe input parameters Tides, Winds, Heat flux, Preccipitation/Evaporation, River discharges, Groundwater, O.B. fluxes
Input format ASCII, Binary
Other input format
Describe output parameters --
Output format Binary
Other output format NetCDF
Pre-processing software needed? No
Describe pre-processing software
Post-processing software needed? Yes
Describe post-processing software GUI Post-process tools
Visualization software needed? Yes
If above answer is yes
Other visualization software Visit

Describe processes represented by the model The present version of FVCOM includes a number of options and components as shown in Figure above. These include:
  1. choice of Cartesian or spherical coordinate system,
  2. a mass-conservative wet/dry point treatment for the flooding/drying process simulation,
  3. the General Ocean Turbulent Model (GOTM) modules (Burchard et al., 1999; Burchard, 2002) for optional vertical turbulent mixing schemes,
  4. a water quality module to simulate dissolved oxygen and other environmental indicators,
  5. 4-D nudging and Reduced/Ensemble Kalman Filters (implemented in collaboration with P. Rizzoli at MIT) for data assimilation,
  6. fully-nonlinear ice models (implemented by F. Dupont),
  7. a 3-D sediment transport module (based on the U.S.G.S. national sediment transport model) for estuarine and near-shore applications, and
  8. a flexible biological module (FBM) for food web dynamics study.

FBM includes seven groups: nutrients, autotrophy, heterotrophy, detritus, dissolved organic matter, bacteria, and other. With various pre-built functions and parameters for these groups, GBM allows users to either select a pre-built biological model (such as NPZ, NPZD, etc.) or to build their own biological model using the pre-defined pool of biological variables and parameterization functions.

Describe key physical parameters and equations
Describe length scale and resolution constraints --
Describe time scale and resolution constraints --
Describe any numerical limitations and issues --

Describe available calibration data sets FVCOM was originally developed for the estuarine flooding/drying process in estuaries and the tidal-, buoyancy- and wind-driven circulation in the coastal region featured with complex irregular geometry and steep bottom topography. This model has been upgraded to the spherical coordinate system for basin and global applications. A non-hydrostatic version of FVCOM has been coded and is being tested.

See also website for model validations.

Upload calibration data sets if available:
Describe available test data sets
Upload test data sets if available:
Describe ideal data for testing

Do you have current or future plans for collaborating with other researchers? --
Is there a manual available? Yes
Upload manual if available:
Model website if any
Model forum / discussion board
Comments FVCOM is an open source code ocean community model that always welcomes new users. This program is only permitted for use in non-commercial academic research and education. Users are required to register in orde to receive the source codes, demo examples, and user manuals as well as some recommended postprocessing tools.

This part will be filled out by CSDMS staff

OpenMI compliant No but possible
BMI compliant No but possible
WMT component No but possible
PyMT component
Is this a data component
Can be coupled with:
Model info
Changsheng Chen
Nr. of publications: 358
Total citations: 7866
h-index: 40
m-quotient: 1.9
Qrcode FVCOM.png
Link to this page




Nr. of publications: 358
Total citations: 7866
h-index: 40
m-quotient: 1.9

Featured publication(s)YearModel describedType of ReferenceCitations
Chen, Changsheng; Liu, Hedong; Beardsley, Robert C.; 2003. An Unstructured Grid, Finite-Volume, Three-Dimensional, Primitive Equations Ocean Model: Application to Coastal Ocean and Estuaries. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 20, 159–186. 10.1175/1520-0426(2003)0202.0.CO;2
(View/edit entry)
2003 FVCOM
Model overview 1338
See more publications of FVCOM



Input Files

Output Files