Gaussian Closure of Transient Unsaturated Flow in Random Soils

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The Gaussian closure approximation, previously used by the authors to solve steady state stochastic unsaturated flow problems in randomly heterogeneous soils, is extended here to transient flow. The method avoids linearizing the governing flow equations or the soil constitutive relations. It places no theoretical limit on the variance of constitutive parameters and applies to a broad class of soils with flow properties that scale according to a linearly separable model. Closure is obtained by treating the dimensionless pressure head ψ as a multivariate Gaussian function. It yields a system of coupled nonlinear differential equations for the first and second moments of ψ. We apply the Gaussian closure technique to the problem of transient infiltration into a randomly stratified soil. In each layer, hydraulic conductivity and water content vary exponentially with ψ. Elsewhere we show that application of the technique to other constitutive relations is straightforward. Our solution for the mean and variance of ψ in a one-dimensional layer with random conductivity compares well with Monte Carlo results over a wide range of parameters, provided that the spatial variability of the constitutive exponent is small. The solution provides considerable insight into the behavior of the transient unsaturated stochastic flow problem.

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