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J Contam Hydrol. 2005 Nov;80(1-2):18-30. Epub 2005 Aug 15.

An active region model for capturing fractal flow patterns in unsaturated soils: model development.

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Earth Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California, USA.


Preferential flow commonly observed in unsaturated soils allows rapid movement of solute from the soil surface or vadose zone to the groundwater, bypassing a significant volume of unsaturated soil and increasing the risk of groundwater contamination. A variety of evidence indicates that complex preferential patterns observed from fields are fractals. In this study, we developed a relatively simple active region model to incorporate the fractal flow pattern into the continuum approach. In the model, the flow domain is divided into active and inactive regions. Flow occurs preferentially in the active region (characterized by fractals), and inactive region is simply bypassed. A new constitutive relationship (the portion of the active region as a function of saturation) was derived. The validity of the proposed model is demonstrated by the consistency between field observations and the new constitutive relationship.

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