Comparison of Iterative Methods for Improved Solutions of the Fluid Flow Equation in Partially Saturated Porous Media

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The Picard and modified Picard iteration schemes are often used to numerically solve the nonlinear Richards equation governing water flow in variably saturated porous media. While these methods are easy to implement, they are only linearly convergent. Another approach to solve the Richards equation is to use Newton's iterative method. This method, also known as Newton–Raphson iteration, is quadratically convergent and requires the computation of first derivatives. We implemented Newton's scheme into the mixed form of the Richards equation. As compared to the modified Picard scheme, Newton's scheme requires two additional matrices when the mixed form of the Richards equation is used and requires three additional matrices, when the pressure head-based form is used. The modified Picard scheme may actually be viewed as a simplified Newton scheme.Two examples are used to investigate the numerical performance of different forms of the 1D vertical Richards equation and the different iterative solution schemes. In the first example, we simulate infiltration in a homogeneous dry porous medium by solving both, the h based and mixed forms of Richards equation using the modified Picard and Newton schemes. Results shows that, very small time steps are required to obtain an accurate mass balance. These small times steps make the Newton method less attractive.In a second test problem, we simulate variable inflows and outflows in a heterogeneous dry porous medium by solving the mixed form of the Richards equation, using the modified Picard and Newton schemes. Analytical computation of the Jacobian required less CPU time than its computation by perturbation. A combination of the modified Picard and Newton scheme was found to be more efficient than the modified Picard or Newton scheme.

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