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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Development and testing of a method for efficient simulation of evaporation from a seepage face


Evaporation from the surface of a porous medium is a complex process, governed by interplay between (1) coupled liquid and vapor flow in the porous medium, and (2) relative humidity, temperature, and aerodynamic conditions in the surrounding air. In order to avoid the computational expense of explicitly simulating liquid, gas, and heat flow in the porous medium (and the possible further expense of simulating the flow of water vapor in the atmosphere), evaporative potentials can be treated in a simplified manner within a model where liquid is the only active phase. In the case of limited air mixing, evaporation can be approximated as a diffusion process with a linear vapor-concentration gradient. We have incorporated a simplified scheme into the EOS9 module of iTOUGH2 to represent evaporation as isothermal Fickian diffusion. This is notable because the EOS9 module solves a single equation describing saturated and unsaturated flow, i.e., phase transitions and vapor flow are not explicitly simulated. The new approach was applied to three simple problems and the results were compared to those obtained with analytical solutions or the EOS4 module, which explicitly considers advective and diffusive vapor flow. Where vapor flow within the porous medium can be neglected, this new scheme represents significant improvement over the computational expense of explicitly simulating liquid, gas, and heat flow, while providing an adequate reproduction of the overall hydrologic system. The scheme is set up to allow parallel flow of liquid and vapor, so that evaporation from an actively seeping face can be simulated. In addition, dynamic relative humidity boundary conditions can be simulated using standard iTOUGH2 features.

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