Characterization of Pore Water Flow in 3-D Heterogeneous Permeability Fields

Xiaolong Geng, Michel C. Boufadel, Kenneth Lee, Chunjiang An

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Subsurface heterogeneity could influence groundwater flow with implications on structure and productivity of aquifer ecosystems. Here we investigate effects of multifractal heterogeneity on topology of groundwater flow through MODFLOW simulations within a Monte Carlo framework. The results show that heterogeneity leads to focused groundwater advection and the creation of hotspots of bending-type vortex flow in the fields. We demonstrate for the first time that the vortex structures characterized by Q criterion are 3-D distributed and greatly deform surrounding pore-water flow. The structures exhibit scale-invariant features in multifractal fields and in stationary fields below the correlation scale, indicating that such vortex flow might be widely present with no characteristic scale. Complex spatial patterns of kinetic energy dissipation rate are identified for pore water flowing through heterogeneous porous media and correlate strongly with preferential flows. These findings are important for understanding solute fate and transport in aquifer systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2019GL086879
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 16 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


  • Q criterion
  • energy dissipation
  • groundwater flow
  • heterogeneous aquifers
  • multifractality
  • scale invariance


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