Coupling saturated and unsaturated flow: comparing the iterative and the non-iterative approach

Brandhorst, Natascha; Erdal, Daniel; Neuweiler, Insa

Fully integrated three-dimensional (3D) physically based hydrologic models usually require many computational resources. For many applications, simplified models can be a cost-effective alternative. The 3D models of subsurface flow are often simplified by coupling a 2D groundwater model with multiple 1D models for the unsaturated zone. The crucial part of such models is the coupling between the two model compartments. In this work we compare two approaches for the coupling. One is iterative where the 1D unsaturated zone models go down to the impervious bottom of the aquifer, and the other one is non-iterative and uses a moving lower boundary for the unsaturated zone. In this context we also propose a new way of treating the specific yield, which plays a crucial role in linking the unsaturated and the groundwater model. Both models are applied to three test cases with increasing complexity and analyzed in terms of accuracy and speed compared to fully integrated model runs. The non-iterative approach is faster but does not yield a good accuracy for the model parameters in all applied test cases, whereas the iterative one gives good results in all cases. Which strategy is applied depends on the requirements: computational speed vs. model accuracy.



Brandhorst, Natascha / Erdal, Daniel / Neuweiler, Insa: Coupling saturated and unsaturated flow: comparing the iterative and the non-iterative approach. 2021. Copernicus Publications.


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