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January 2009 - March 2010

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences
Institute of Technology
Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering

PI: John L. Nieber

Dynamics of Hydrologic Flows in Natural and Man-impacted Landscapes

The fundamental unit for all watersheds is the hill-slope unit. The hill-slope scale dominates in the processes of runoff generation and transport processes in upland areas of watersheds. Modeling of flow and transport processes on hill slopes is complex because of the highly nonlinear nature of the governing flow equations and the complex boundary conditions involved. The feedback mechanisms from plants on hill slopes is very important in determining hydrologic responses of hill slopes, and the soil development processes on hill slopes is strongly related to weathering activities and to the activity of vegetation and resident fauna. The objective of this research is to develop characterizations of hill-slope hydrologic responses and hill-slope soil development processes based on the use of two-dimensional and three-dimensional high-performance numerical simulations. The researchers use COMSOL MP3.4 with the Earth Science Module, the Reaction Engineering Module, and the Structural Engineering Module. One valuable outcome of the characterization will be the development of response functions that will have utility for parameterization of large-scale hydrologic models.

At the larger scale we can define the recharge and discharge of groundwater based on hierarchical hydrogeologic units. Defining these units in the landscape, and their characteristic response to the variability of climate and also the dynamics of the vegetation existing on the land surface is critical to the development of management systems for freshwater sustainability. As a result, the second objective of this research is to develop a large-scale groundwater system model containing all the variability of hydrogeology, surface topography, and vegetation complexes observable from GIS databases. This groundwater model is used as a scheme to evaluate current statistical analysis methods employed in developing regional atlases illustrating the distribution of groundwater recharge and discharge over various spatial scales.

The researchers also use the Penn State Integrated Hydrologic Model, a multiprocess model set up to make it relatively easy to simulate hydrologic processes over watersheds of any size.

Group Members

Farzana Ahmed, Graduate Student
Nick Olson, Graduate Student
Mikhail Titov, Graduate Student