Continuous time random walks for non-local radial solute transport

Marco Dentz, Peter K. Kang, Tanguy Le Borgne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


This study formulates and analyzes continuous time random walk (CTRW) models in radial flow geometries for the quantification of non-local solute transport induced by heterogeneous flow distributions and by mobile-immobile mass transfer processes. To this end we derive a general CTRW framework in radial coordinates starting from the random walk equations for radial particle positions and times. The particle density, or solute concentration is governed by a non-local radial advection-dispersion equation (ADE). Unlike in CTRWs for uniform flow scenarios, particle transition times here depend on the radial particle position, which renders the CTRW non-stationary. As a consequence, the memory kernel characterizing the non-local ADE, is radially dependent. Based on this general formulation, we derive radial CTRW implementations that (i) emulate non-local radial transport due to heterogeneous advection, (ii) model multirate mass transfer (MRMT) between mobile and immobile continua, and (iii) quantify both heterogeneous advection in a mobile region and mass transfer between mobile and immobile regions. The expected solute breakthrough behavior is studied using numerical random walk particle tracking simulations. This behavior is analyzed by explicit analytical expressions for the asymptotic solute breakthrough curves. We observe clear power-law tails of the solute breakthrough for broad (power-law) distributions of particle transit times (heterogeneous advection) and particle trapping times (MRMT model). The combined model displays two distinct time regimes. An intermediate regime, in which the solute breakthrough is dominated by the particle transit times in the mobile zones, and a late time regime that is governed by the distribution of particle trapping times in immobile zones. These radial CTRW formulations allow for the identification of heterogeneous advection and mobile-immobile processes as drivers of anomalous transport, under conditions relevant for field tracer tests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-26
Number of pages11
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
MD acknowledges the support of the European Research Council (ERC) through the project MHetScale (Contract number 617511). We thank Dr. Antoine Aubenau and two anonymous reviewers for their comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Continuous time random walks
  • Multirate mass transfer
  • Non-local transport
  • Radial transport
  • Random walk particle tracking
  • Stochastic modeling


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