Skip to Main Content U.S. Department of Energy
Puget Sound Georgia Basin Model

A predictive ocean modeling tool for coastal estuarine research, restoration planning, water-quality management, and assessment of climate change effects

This work is a collaborative effort between PNNL, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We are developing a predictive modeling tool for use by our community engaged in water-quality management and habitat restoration efforts.


Nutrient pollution from rivers, nonpoint source runoff, and nearly 100 wastewater discharges has always been recognized as one of the leading stressors to the ecological health of Puget Sound and adjacent waters including Georgia Strait and Strait of Juan de Fuca. In recent years, climate change and coastal upwelling resulting in entry of low-dissolved oxygen (DO), high-pH, nutrient-rich water has emerged as the new added threat to this ecosystem. In response to a growing demand for a water-quality management tool to help plan for future conditions, the development of the Salish Sea model (SSM) covering the Puget Sound and Georgia Basins was initiated. In its present state the model captures many of the spatial and temporal patterns for phytoplankton, nutrients, and DO seen in the water-quality data. The model and results are available for use upon request and are already being applied in support of various projects.

Enlarge imageClick on the images below to enlarge.

Salish Sea Model - SSM domain

Tidal motion in SSM (72-hr animation, April 2006 conditions)

Exaggerated vertical scale to visualize SSM domain-wide tidal motion

Surface velocity (72-hour animation, April 2006 conditions).

Surface salinity, psu (72-hour animation, April 2006 conditions).

Strong currents in the Strait of Juan De Fuca and Admiralty Inlet regions of Salish Sea, and freshwater plume from Fraser River, are noticeable features.

The model domain currently extends over the Pacific Northwest coastal waters including the Strait of Juan De Fuca, Georgia Strait, and the Puget Sound region (south of Admiralty Inlet). This region, also known as the Salish Sea, is a large estuarine system bounded by over 7000 miles of complex shorelines; it consists of several sub-basins and many large inlets with distinct properties of their own.

Salish Sea Model Overview

Research & Projects


New Products
Updated (3/26/2014)