Quick model set-up using open databases (DelftDashboard)

Type: Software

Project Phase: Initiation, Planning and Design

Purpose: simple and quick model set-up, linking of open databases

Requirements: Basic modelling skills, knowledge on relevant environment

Relevant Software: Matlab or Matlab compiler if used as stand-alone tool




Although all surface water modelling efforts tend to be unique, a large number of steps (i.e. data collection, grid set-up, generating forcing, boundary and initial conditions) are the same in every modelling exercise. The main purpose of Delft Dashboard is to make it easier for modellers to go through these steps and enable quick model set-up anywhere in the world. It does so by linking to open databases for bathymetry (e.g. GEBCO, Vaklodingen, SRTM), shorelines and tidal data (e.g. TOPEX Poseidon). Users are enabled to add their own (classified) datasets to the tool. Delft Dashboard offers a large number of generic routines and handy toolboxes, such as coordinate conversion, bathymetric interpolation, nesting, domain decomposition and modelling of tsunamis and tropical cyclones. With these tools, setting up a model is a matter of minutes, whereas it used to take days or weeks before.

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The quick nature of Delft Dashboard enables users to rapidly assess the characteristics of their system of interest. For example, the user can get an idea of tidal signals, tidal motion and bathymetry in a certain part of the world in a few clicks. This can be valuable information, particularly in the initial or tender stages of a project. Delft Dashboard may also come in handy to provide first-order estimates of the potential effects of extreme events such as tsunamis (time to hit the coast after an earthquake) or hurricanes and other severe storms (surge levels). Given the short notice of these events, time is generally lacking to set-up dedicated and thoroughly validated prediction models. Furthermore, a rapid assessment tool like this may assist users in quickly testing model sensitivities.


Although the Delft Dashboard interface is designed to support the setup of every type of surface water model, only the following models have been implemented so far:


Building with Nature interest

Delft Dashboard can potentially be used for any type of hydrodynamic or morphodynamic environment, as long as the proper plug-ins are developed. In its current state Delft Dashboard primarily supports hydrodynamic and morphodynamic modelling in coastal environments. It could be a useful tool for all environments defined within the Building with Nature framework. The versatility of the tool makes it particularly useful for the initial project phases, i.e. initiation and planning & design. Generally, more dedicated and detailed modelling is required for the construction and operation & maintenance phases. As the current version of Delft Dashboard does not yet cater for the set-up of curvilinear and unstructured grids (which are generally required for more detailed models), other tools such as RGFGRID and QUICKIN may be required in addition to Delft Dashboard.


Delft Dashboard is linked to the Interactive Dredge Planning Tool - Singapore, where it is used for a showcase. The principal idea of this showcase is to go in a number of steps from a rough model based on rough data to a dedicated, well-calibrated model based on the best datasets available. This process is mimicking the steps in a real project. In the initial stages the actual questions are often not clear, relatively little data is available and some rough explorative model runs are used to get an idea of the natural behaviour and characteristics of the area of interest, whereas in the end of the project the project team ideally delivers a well-calibrated (and validated) model that is capable of providing accurate information. The quick and intuitive nature of Delft Dashboard makes it a useful tool to go through these steps. Likewise, Delft Dashboard can be useful for Interactive group modelling - MapTable type applications, as it can quickly set up or modify models in different stages of the design process. 

How to Use

The General User Interface (GUI) of Delft Dashboard is intended to be rather intuitive in order to enable a wide range of users to use the software. Nevertheless, some affinity with surface water modelling (especially with Delft3D) may come in handy for using the tool to its full extent. The model set-up can be drawn on a world map and changes in model lay-out or attributes are visualised to provide users with direct feedback of their actions. In default mode Delft Dashboard uses default values for the model settings, which makes it easy to set-up a working model. Of course these values can be changed to the user's preferences. Please note that quickly setting up a working model, does not provide any guarantees about the quality of its results.

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Installation of Delft Dashboard

Delft Dashboard is available (free of charge) both as a standalone executable and as Matlab code. The executable can run without having Matlab installed on the user's computer. However, this option requires installation of the Matlab Compiler Runtime (MCR). The installation notes for installing the Delft Dashboard executable can be found in the OpenEarth Product Suite. Matlab users can also download the Matlab code which is available in the OpenEarthTools repository (user password required). For downloading the Matlab code it is strongly recommended to use the subversion repository system. More information on this, plus user registration, can be found on the OpenEarth website.


Graphical User Interface (GUI)

The current Graphical User Interface (GUI) of Delft Dashboard consists of the following components: The Top menu describes the most generic functions, which allows for switching between different models, toolboxes, bathymetries, coordinate systems and loading & saving of working directories and files generated during your Delft Dashboard session. The Top menu also includes a number of Map operations. The tabs under the Top Menu, resemble the menu of the active software (e.g. Delft3D FLOW or WAVE). This menu can be used to switch between different items and allows for editing of the model input (which can be done in the working space, see below). With the Toolbox Tab, which does not exist in the Delft3D software, it is possible to switch between different toolboxes. By default, Delft Dashboard starts with the Model Maker Toolbox. The Map View window visualizes the map with the bathymetry, topography and/or shoreline data, which will be used to set up the model. In default mode Delft Dashboard starts up with the GEBCO 2008 world bathymetry in the background. The working space is directly linked to the tab that is selected in the (Delft3D) Model Menu. Depending on the Model or Toolbox that is selected, the working space will have another lay-out, with buttons, input fields, drop-down menus, etc - for editing.


Documentation and tutorial

Delft Dashboard has numerous functionalities and possibilities. For some guidance through all these options, documentation (draft version) is available. To get started using Delft Dashboard please have a look at the webinar in which the general functionality as well as some specific toolboxes are explained.


User forum

On the open source website of Deltares there is a Delft Dashboard user forum. Here users can post questions and report bugs. 

Practical Applications

General Applications

Delft Dashboard has been and is still being applied especially in coastal modelling efforts, ranging from simple initial explorations to generating boundary conditions for 3 dimensional models and modelling of tsunami's and tropical cyclones. Below the minimal steps for setting up a tidal model using the Model Maker Toolbox are explained.

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The following video demonstrates how the Tsunami Toolbox can be used to set up a tsunami model for Japan in just a few minutes. Bathymetry data are automatically downloaded from on-line sources. The initial tsunami wave is computed according to the Okada model (1985), given the earthquake parameters.

More tutorials on other Delft Dashboard functionalities will gradually become available on the Delft Dashboard wiki.

Building with Nature applications

As mentioned before Delft Dashboard is being applied in the showcase for the Interactive Dredge Planning Tool. Furthermore, Delft Dashboard is potentially useful to set-up models for any type of MapTable application.

Another practical application is for the assessment of shoal nourishments. The main purpose of this application is to quickly evaluate the effect of a shoal nourishment in areas where structural erosion of shoals leads to loss in intertidal area and important ecological habitats. It enables a fast comparison of different nourishment strategies or designs, particularly in the initial or tender stages of a project.


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Suggestions for further reading on Delft Dashboard: