October 1997

Document Type


Degree Name



Dept. of Environmental Science and Engineering


Oregon Health & Science University


Eulerian-Lagrangian methods (ELMs) are increasingly used to simulate groundwater and surface water transport and water quality, largely due to their ability to use large time steps and to formally decouple processes with distinct time scales. Yet, two severe limitations remain: (1) ELMs do not inherently conserve mass, and (2) in multiple dimensions, robust implementations of "higher-order" ELMs are expensive. Our research focused on the understanding of the main sources of errors in ELMs. We analyzed systematically the impact and relative importance of tracking errors, integration errors and forcing by non-conservative flow fields, on measures of mass conservation, overall accuracy and stability. From this analysis, we propose new methodologies and general guidelines towards mass conservative, globally accurate and stable multidimensional ELM transport simulations in estuarine and coastal regions. We performed a pioneering study of the influence of tracking errors, demonstrating their very strong negative impact on mass conservation, overall accuracy and stability. Low-order tracking methods are strongly discouraged in the presence of complex flow fields, typical of estuaries, because they are too inaccurate to allow overall mass balance and phase preservation, and they lead to potential instability. We show that the evaluation of the integrals at the feet of the characteristic lines is an important source of mass and overall errors, which can be controlled through grid refinement. To avoid such errors, we develop a new method that combines the flexibility and local mass properties of control volume finite element methods (CVFE), with a new quadrature integration technique. Subdivision quadrature overcomes stability constrains of traditional quadratures and allows for easy implementation in multiple dimensions. We find subdivision quadrature CVFE-ELMS to be an attractive alternative to current finite element ELMs in estuaries and coasts. Non-conservative flow fields are the primary concern for estuarine and coastal applications because ELMs cannot mitigate their effect without jeopardizing overall accuracy. We found bathymetric gradients and complex geometry to be the main sources for flow mass errors, and grid refinement to be inadequate to eliminate them. Consequently, mass imbalances in ELM solutions cannot be removed by grid refinement. Control volume finite elements and conservative-equation-based formulations are equally ineffective in the presence of a non-conservative flow. The problem needs to be addressed at the source, i.e., the circulation models that generate the flows. A detailed analysis of residence times illustrates the importance of improving numerical models, and provides new insights on the variability of residence times in estuarine systems. A new methodology is proposed, which emphasizes the importance of local analysis of residence times to understand the fluxing properties of a complex system, while providing an alternative approach to traditional bulk evaluations of residence times.




OGI School of Science and Engineering



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