Operator-splitting errors in coupled reactive transport codes for transient variably saturated flow and contaminant transport in layered soil profiles

Diederik Jacques, J. Šimůnek, Dirk Mallants, M. Th van Genuchten

    Research outputpeer-review


    This paper evaluates the accuracy of the operator-splitting approach for typical soil environmental problems involving transient atmospheric boundary conditions (precipitation, evapotranspiration) and layered soil profiles. The recently developed HP1 code was used to solve the coupled transport and chemical equations. For steady-state flow conditions, the accuracy was found to be mainly a function of the adopted spatial discretization and to a lesser extent of the temporal discretization. For transient flow situations, the accuracy depended in a complex manner on grid discretization, time stepping and the main flow conditions. Whereas a finer grid size reduced the numerical errors during steady-state flow or the main infiltration periods, the errors sometimes slightly increased (generally less than 50%) when a finer grid size was used during periods with a high evapotranspiration demand (leading to high pressure head gradients near the soil surface). This indicates that operator-splitting errors are most significant during periods with high evaporative boundary conditions. The operator-splitting errors could be decreased by constraining the time step using the performance index (the product of the grid Peclet and Courant numbers) during infiltration, or the maximum time step during evapotranspiration.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)197-218
    JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
    Issue number3-4
    StatePublished - Dec 2006

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