Applying forces instead of set velocities on a 2D continental extension model

Hi all,

I’ve been playing around with the continental extension model in the manual and was interested if there’s a way of applying a force to the left and right boundaries of the model instead of a set velocity. Maybe I’m completely off the plot here but from looking at the manual it looks like in the Boundary traction model subsection you can specify a function to calculate the traction force for each vector component (x,y,z) for which you wish to have a force in that direction. However, I’m a little unsure how to implement this or if it’ll work like I presume it will.

If anybody has done anything like this before or even knows if you can implement this any help is much appreciated.



Hi Luke,

Yep, you are on the track. The Boundary traction model can be used to prescribe tractions on boundaries, rather than velocities.

In general, models with both a free surface and boundary tractions on one or more side walls tend to be less stable than equivalent models with kinematic boundaries, but with enough testing various configurations you probably can arrive with a stable suite of simulations.

As lithostatic pressure will dominant for a crustal- or lithospheric-scale model, what you likely need to prescribe on the traction boundaries is the lithostatic pressure plus a constant that defines either inward or outward flow (simple 2D example).

Previously, I believe this combination could only have been done via a carefully designed user-specified function, but now it should be possible to combine multiple tractions models with the following recently merged PR (yay hackathons :slight_smile: ) - Problem with update strain rheology - #13 by jbnaliboff

As a starting point, I suggest reading through that PR (particularly the new example test case) and:

  1. Going through the online documentation for the boundary traction model
  2. Reading through relevant tests cases, including box_lithostatic_pressure_2D.prm. I would search for keywords like lithostatic_pressure and boundary_traction.
  3. Go through the benchmark suite for nonlinear channel flow, which uses boundary tractions to drive deformation.

I hope this helps and it would be great to continue the discussion with any further questions about existing examples or new tests you conduct.


Hi John,

Thanks for the response and the links to all the useful information! It’s good to hear that the traction boundaries work similar to what I thought they would. I’ve also had a read through the links you suggested but there’s still a few things I’m a little unsure about.

Firstly, the closest example I found to what I want to achieve is the attached file and image below which I somehow found on Juliane Dannberg’s Github page. This example uses the box with lithosphere boundary indicators and applies a free surface on top, zero velocity boundary indicators on the bottom boundary, left lithosphere: function, right lithosphere:function, left:initial lithostatic pressure, right:initial lithostatic pressure. It also uses a function that can be summarised as: density * gravity * (height of model – y) + or – stress. I also noticed that the box_lithostatic_pressure_2D.prm has a similar function. My question here is basically why do these models prescribe traction functions in this way? Why not use a constant value across the boundaries?
traction_plate.prm (7.4 KB)

I’ve also had a go at applying boundary tractions on a 2D continental extension model, but I’ve been getting some funny results. To try and get my models working I’ve been using zero velocity boundary indicators on the bottom, free surface on the top and x function tractions on the left and right. However, when applying a constant traction on the sides I end up getting really high velocities dipping downwards (image below). I’ve tried playing around with this a bit but haven’t had any luck and I’m not sure what the best thing to try going forward is. Do you have any advice or insight as to what’s going on here?

Haha I guess I asked at a good time then. I also saw you released ASPECT 2.5.0 recently (looks like a lot of really cool changes btw), but I’m still on the past version (2.4.0) and it’ll take me a few weeks at least before I’ll be able to get the newer version going. Would you recommend I keep on trying to get the traction boundaries working on my current version or wait until I can use 2.5.0?

Big thanks again,