Mississippi State Computer Simulations May Help States Predict Flooding

January 20, 2016

As southern states experience record rainfall during the winter season, spillways and levee systems in southern Mississippi and Louisiana are acting as defense systems to prevent the Mississippi river from overflowing its banks.

When the Mississippi Valley rains propel the river to its peak levels, the question remains, "How much can levee systems withstand before breaking and towns flood?"

This question is one that Mississippi State researchers at the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems are attempting to answer by performing simulations on supercomputers.

CAVS researcher and faculty member Bohumir Jelinek creates computational models by building complex mathematical algorithms that represent millions of particles of soil and fluid to create realistic simulations involving a variety of different soil types and fluids.

An advantage the CAVS research team has is using Mississippi State's High Performance Computing Collaboratory's large computer clusters to solve the complex problem at a faster rate that decreases the time to solution.

"These animations help us to get a comprehensive picture of what is going on. Each sphere represents a particle of sand or soil," Jelinek said.

"We are looking at the velocity of fluid, particles, forces, torques and stresses. In the real world, many things can't be observed and measured directly, especially under extreme conditions. Using modeling and visualization, we can obtain a reasonable estimate of what will happen and eliminate the risk," he explained.

Jelinek collaborates with engineering experts from Mississippi State's civil engineering department to determine the strength of soil to aid decision-makers in knowing how to better build and reinforce levees and foundations that protect homes and businesses from floodwaters. They explore applications such as the strength of saturated soil, sedimentation and shear thickening by combining two methods: the three-dimensional Lattice Boltzmann Method models fluid and the Discrete Element Method models solid particles.

Jelinek and the research team at CAVS are adding flexibility into the DEM/LBM system, which will assist in solving more problems from various applications, like fluid injection, piping erosion, and reliability of the flood protection systems.

For instance, they are exploring which soil material is more suitable for construction in order to avoid erosion. This will answer questions such as what flood stage the levee is able to sustain and how the process of erosion will affect levee and various other systems that are used for protection.

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