Anomalous transport through free-flow-porous media interface: Pore-scale simulation and predictive modeling

Jun Song Kim, Peter K. Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Pore-scale velocity and turbulence structures near streambeds may control solute transport and dispersion in streams. In this study, pore-scale flow and transport simulations are performed to investigate the effects of pore-scale processes on anomalous transport, which is often manifested by remarkably long residence times of solute particles, in coupled free-flow and porous media systems. By solving the 2D Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes equations integrated with a renormalization group k − ε turbulence model, we resolve complex pore-scale flows featured by vortices and preferential flows. Then, we incorporate the simulated velocity and turbulence fields into a Lagrangian particle tracking model that considers advection, turbulent diffusion, and molecular diffusion. Simulation results reveal that the interplay between pore-scale vortices and turbulence structures near the free-flow-permeable bed interface controls anomalous transport. High porosity induces strong turbulence penetration and preferential flow paths within permeable beds. The enhanced subsurface turbulence facilitates the escape of solute particles from recirculation zones via turbulent diffusion, causing steep power-law slopes in breakthrough curves (BTCs). In contrast, low porosity introduces heavy tailing in BTCs from particles that are trapped in the near-interface recirculation zones characterized by low velocities and limited turbulence. We upscale and predict particle transport via a Spatial Markov model (SMM) honoring the interplay between Lagrangian velocity distribution and velocity correlation. The SMM reproduces anomalous transport behaviors obtained from the numerical simulations. These results demonstrate that Lagrangian velocity statistics effectively encode anomalous transport mechanisms in the coupled systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103467
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • Anomalous transport
  • Free-flow-porous media interface
  • Pore-scale simulation
  • Recirculation zone
  • Spatial Markov model
  • Turbulence structures

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