News 2018: Charting the ocean

News 2018: Charting the ocean
Charting the ocean

Dr. Changsheng Chen of UMass Dartmouth's School for Marine Science & Technology is the co-developer of the finite-volume community ocean model, one of the most widely applied tools for oceanographers and limnologists.

Changsheng Chen with his FVCOM
Since its release 15 years ago, the FVCOM’s usage has escalated to 38 countries.

Dr. Changsheng Chen, Montgomery Charter Chair Professor of Fisheries Oceanography at UMass Dartmouth's School for Marine Science & Technology, currently serves as the principal investigator on multiple projects funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sea Grant and other sponsors.

As an oceanographer, Chen’s research interests are on modeling and observational explorations of multi-scale global-regional-estuarine ocean circulation, oceanic fronts, ecosystem dynamics, polar sea ices, and climate change. 

The finite-volume community ocean model

Chen is the leader of the Marine Ecosystem Dynamics Modeling Laboratory, and this lab has developed the finite-volume community ocean model (FVCOM) for the ocean community. Designed to simulate the behavior of the multi-scale ocean processes, FVCOM software serves as one of the most widely applied tools for oceanographers and limnologists. The model plays a significant role in marine science research, marine resource development, environmental protection, marine management, and marine disaster prevention.

Since its release 15 years ago, the FVCOM’s usage has escalated to 38 countries. “It is used by scientists at academic universities and institutions, government agencies, and private companies,” said Chen. “We have used the FVCOM for ocean rescues, to search for airplanes that have crashed in the ocean, and to determine the initial spread of radionuclides from a nuclear power plant. Users from around the world come to SMAST to learn how to use the model.” Additionally, NOAA has selected the FVCOM as the model to build the US coastal forecast system. View the FVCOM model

Current projects

In 2007, Chen also co-developed the Northeast Coastal Ocean Forecast System (NECOFS). The system forecasts weather, ocean waves, ocean currents, and sea level in the Northeast region. NOAA recently awarded Chen a five-year grant to support NECOFS operation and improvements. This grant has brought him $281,967 for the years of 2016 and 2017.

The primary goal is to develop a model system that is capable of forecasting the storm-induced coastal inundation in the northeastern region, including the Massachusetts Bay-Boston Harbor, Scituate Harbor, MA, Hampton River, NH, and Saco Bay in Maine. “The project also supports the prediction and assessment of the impacts of climate change on resilient coastal hazards,” said Chen.

“This information is provided to weather forecasters who can then use it as a reference with their own forecasting system.” Additionally, he has received a $381,366 award from the NSF to develop an Arctic Ocean FVCOM model that will determine why freshwater is accumulating in the Beaufort Gyre of the Arctic Ocean.

Learn more about Chen's research.