Also known as
Model type Single
Model part of larger framework
Note on status model
Date note status model
Incorporated models or components:
Spatial dimensions 2D
Spatial extent
Model domain Coastal, Marine
One-line model description Hypopycnal sediment plume
Extended model description Run a hypopycnal sediment plume

sediment transport,

Name Eric Hutton
Type of contact Model developer
Institute / Organization CSDMS, INSTAAR, University of Colorado
Postal address 1 1560 30th street
Postal address 2
Town / City Boulder
Postal code 80305
State Colorado
Country United States
Email address

Supported platforms
Unix, Linux, Mac OS, Windows
Other platform
Programming language


Other program language
Code optimized Single Processor
Multiple processors implemented
Nr of distributed processors
Nr of shared processors
Start year development 1997
Does model development still take place? Yes
If above answer is no, provide end year model development
Code development status As is, no updates are provided
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 Apache public license
Program license type other
Memory requirements Minimal
Typical run time Seconds

Describe input parameters River velocity, width, depth; Sediment concentrations
Input format ASCII
Other input format
Describe output parameters Grid of Sediment rate in m/day for specified grain size classes
Output format ASCII
Other output format
Pre-processing software needed? No
Describe pre-processing software
Post-processing software needed? No
Describe post-processing software
Visualization software needed? No
If above answer is yes
Other visualization software

Describe processes represented by the model Steady-state river generated hypopycnal sediment plume
Describe key physical parameters and equations 2D advection-diffusion equation
Describe length scale and resolution constraints kilometers to tens of kilometers; resolution typically 10 to 100s of meters
Describe time scale and resolution constraints Daily; Steady-state
Describe any numerical limitations and issues

Describe available calibration data sets Eel River (California), Knight and Bute Inlet (British Columbia)
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? None
Is there a manual available? No
Upload manual if available:
Model website if any --
Model forum / discussion board
Comments --

This part will be filled out by CSDMS staff

OpenMI compliant Yes
BMI compliant Yes
WMT component Yes
PyMT component Yes
Is this a data component
DOI model 10.1594/IEDA/100152
For model version 2.1
Year version submitted 2011
Link to file
Can be coupled with:
Model info

Nr. of publications: 4
Total citations: 133
h-index: 3
m-quotient: 0.12

Link to this page


PLUME [1] [2][3]

Plume simulates hypopycnal plumes generated by a river draining its suspended sediment load into a receiving basin. Satellite images of any river-delta emphasize the importance of river plumes. A plume’s behavior is dependent on the density contrast between the river water and the standing water (Albertson, 1950; Bates, 1953). Ocean water has a high density, and the plumes often flow buoyantly on the surface (hypopycnal). Another complementary model that deals with more rare hyperpycnal flows is Sakura. The river’s sediment concentration adds density to the freshwater, but usually the effluent remains below the density of seawater. The shape that a hypopycnal plume will have, depends on a variety of factors:

  1. Angle between the river course and the coastline
  2. Strength and direction of the coastal current
  3. Wind direction influencing local upwelling or downwelling
  4. Mixing tidal or storm energy near the river mouth
  5. Latitude and thus the strength of the Coriolis effect.

The plume equations follow those of Albertson (1950) developed for a jet flowing into a steady receiving basin. Plumes of similar shape but differing concentrations result for each grain size in the model. Fine sand will generally settle rapidly, whereas clay can travel much larger distances. Naturally, this affects the geometry of the deposited sediments on the basin floor.

River dimensions, i.e. the channel width, depth and velocity at the river mouth are input conditions. In addition, river sediment concentration and settling velocities for specific grain size classes are input parameters as well. Plume is a steady-state model, meaning that it simulates constant input conditions, representative of a 'unit' event.

River dimensions for plume range over orders of magnitude, small streams of only a few meters wide have been run, as well as large continental scale rivers (for example the Ganges-Brahmaputra). Consequently, the spatial resolution of the grid is highly variable depending on the modeling objective. If plume is used in stand-alone mode, it runs events of a single day. If you are interested in exploring deposits of changing plumes over time you will need to use the PLUME model within the framework of the stratigraphic model Sedflux.


Nr. of publications: 4
Total citations: 133
h-index: 3
m-quotient: 0.12

Featured publication(s)YearModel describedType of ReferenceCitations
Hutton, Eric W.H.; Syvitski, James P.M.; 2008. Sedflux 2.0: An advanced process-response model that generates three-dimensional stratigraphy. Computers & Geosciences, 34, 1319–1337. 10.1016/j.cageo.2008.02.013
(View/edit entry)
2008 Avulsion
Model overview 67
Syvitski, James P.; Skene, Kenneth I.; Nicholson, Murray K.; Morehead, Mark D.; 1998. PLUME1.1: Deposition of sediment from a fluvial plume. Computers & Geosciences, 24, 159–171. 10.1016/S0098-3004(97)00084-8
(View/edit entry)
1998 Plume
Model overview 54
See more publications of Plume




Help on Model Output

PLUME generates a comma separated (*.csv) file which shows sedimentation rates per specified grain size class in m/day for the entire model grid.

Half of the model grid is land, the other half is the receiving marine or lake basin as shown in the accompanying figure. The sedimentation rate for the first specified grainsize is listed for every gridcell. The small plume in the example is visible in the middle of the grid.

Then the grid repeats itself for the next grainsize, of which the plume has a different shape and sedimentation rate. So a grid of 2000m basin width and length, with gridcells of 10 by 10 m will have 400 rows by 200 columns, if the simulation was only run for two grain size classes.

This would repeat on to match the total number of simulated grain size classes.

Help on Simple Matlab Visualization of Output

If you want to use PLUME output with Matlab you will have to cut off the header lines of the file in a text editor. These are just a couple of commands to get started with analyzing the output.

In Matlab use the following commands:

To import your generated output file: <geshi lang=matlab> > c=dlmread('*.csv'); </geshi>

To create a planview map the plumes:

> imagesc(c);

Usually the first grain size is the coarser fraction traveling in suspension, but it is dependent on your input file. If you just want to create a planview map of a single grainsize plume:

> cg1=c(101:200,:);
> cg2=c(301:400,:);
> imagesc(cg1)
> figure
> imagesc(cg2)

If you want the plume area of all cells with more than a certain threshold of sediment deposited, in this example all area with more than 0.005m deposits, you can get the no-of-gridcells that contain layers thicker than a certain threshold:

> n=sum(sum(cg1>0.0005);
> plume_area=n*10*10;

Similarly, if you want the plume volume of all cells with more than a certain threshold of sediment deposited, in this example all area with more than 0.005m deposits, you can get the no-of-gridcells that contain layers thicker than a certain threshold:

> v=sum(cg1>0.0005);
> plume_volume=v*10*10;

It may be usefull to compare X-sections for the different grain size classes:

> plot(cg1(25, :), 'r');
> hold
> plot(cg2(25,:));

Input Files

Simple Input Files for Testing

A very simple scenario for the plume model has been posted here. It models a bankfull flood event for a small meandering river, draining into a lake. These files may be useful for testing whether the model is running.

Simple Output File for Testing

The associated output file, with grids of sedimentation rates per day, for both grain sizes can be found here:

  1. Hutton and Syvitski, 2008. Sedflux-2.0: An advanced process-response model that generates three-dimensional stratigraphy. Computers and Geosciences, v. 34. doi:10.1016/j.cageo.2008.02.013
  2. Syvitski et al., 1998. PLUME1.1: Deposition of sediment from a fluvial plume (doi:10.1016/S0098-3004(97)00084-8
  3. Peckham, S.D., 2008. A new method for estimating suspended sediment concentrations and deposition rates from satellite imagery based on the physics of plumes. Computer & Geosciences, 34, 1198-1222. doi:10.1016/j.cageo.2008.02.009