Articles | Volume 8, issue 5
The Cryosphere, 8, 1935–1950, 2014
The Cryosphere, 8, 1935–1950, 2014

Research article 23 Oct 2014

Research article | 23 Oct 2014

Three-phase numerical model for subsurface hydrology in permafrost-affected regions (PFLOTRAN-ICE v1.0)

S. Karra1, S. L. Painter1,*, and P. C. Lichtner2 S. Karra et al.
  • 1Computational Earth Science Group, Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545, USA
  • 2OFM Research, 28430 NE 47th Pl, Redmond, WA 98053, USA
  • *current address: Climate Change Science Institute, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37831, USA

Abstract. Degradation of near-surface permafrost due to changes in the climate is expected to impact the hydrological, ecological and biogeochemical responses of the Arctic tundra. From a hydrological perspective, it is important to understand the movement of the various phases of water (gas, liquid and ice) during the freezing and thawing of near-surface soils. We present a new non-isothermal, single-component (water), three-phase formulation that treats air as an inactive component. This single component model works well and produces similar results to a more complete and computationally demanding two-component (air, water) formulation, and is able to reproduce results of previously published laboratory experiments. A proof-of-concept implementation in the massively parallel subsurface flow and reactive transport code PFLOTRAN is summarized, and parallel performance of that implementation is demonstrated. When water vapor diffusion is considered, a large effect on soil moisture dynamics is seen, which is due to dependence of thermal conductivity on ice content. A large three-dimensional simulation (with around 6 million degrees of freedom) of seasonal freezing and thawing is also presented.