High Performance Simulation of Environmental Tracers in Heterogeneous Domains

William P. Gardner, Glenn Hammond, Peter Lichtner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In this study, we use PFLOTRAN, a highly scalable, parallel, flow, and reactive transport code to simulate the concentrations of 3H, 3He, CFC-11, CFC-12, CFC-113, SF6, 39Ar, and the mean groundwater age in heterogeneous fields on grids with an excess of 10 million nodes. We utilize this computational platform to simulate the concentration of multiple tracers in high-resolution, heterogeneous 2D and 3D domains, and calculate tracer-derived ages. Tracer-derived ages show systematic biases toward younger ages when the groundwater age distribution contains water older than the maximum tracer age. The deviation of the tracer-derived age distribution from the true groundwater age distribution increases with increasing heterogeneity of the system. However, the effect of heterogeneity is diminished as the mean travel time gets closer to the tracer age limit. Age distributions in 3D domains differ significantly from 2D domains. 3D simulations show decreased mean age, and less variance in age distribution for identical heterogeneity statistics. High-performance computing allows for investigation of tracer and groundwater age systematics in high-resolution domains, providing a platform for understanding and utilizing environmental tracer and groundwater age information in heterogeneous 3D systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-80
Number of pages10
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


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