Multiscale Model Unifies Simulation of Surface and Groundwater Flow


Modeling hydrological processes in ecosystems containing both surface water and groundwater is crucial for understanding fluid flow in general, and, more specifically, for understanding the cycling of organic and inorganic elements and the availability of nutrients to microbes and plants. Such understanding could lead to approaches to better control carbon and water cycles, mitigate contamination, and enhance nutrient availability for bioenergy crops. However, a long-standing challenge has been that models use separate sets of equations to describe fluid flow in surface water and groundwater, thus requiring complex approaches to couple equations. Now, scientists from the University of Central Florida and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a unified multiscale model that uses a single set of equations to simultaneously simulate fluid flow in an ecosystem containing both surface water and groundwater. Simulations were performed using the Cascade supercomputer at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, one of the Department of Energy’s scientific user facilities. The team applied the modeling approach to the Disney Wilderness Preserve in Kissimmee, Florida, where active field monitoring and measurements are ongoing to understand hydrological and biogeochemical processes. The simulation results demonstrated that the Disney Wilderness Preserve is subject to frequent changes in soil saturation, geometry and volume of surface waterbodies, and groundwater and surface water exchange. The unified multiscale model is expected to lead to a better understanding of fluid flow in active groundwater and surface water interaction zones, such as wetlands, which play important roles in global cycling of carbon and nitrogen, degradation of metals and organic contaminants, and production and mitigation of greenhouse gases.

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Yang, X., C. Liu, Y. Fang, R. Hinkle, H.-Y. Li, V. Bailey, and B. Bond-Lamberty. 2015. “Simulations of Ecosystem Hydrological Processes Using a Unified Multi-Scale Model,” Ecological Modelling 296,93–101. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2014.10.032.