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An intermediate-scale model for thermal hydrology in low-relief permafrost-affected landscapes

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Computers & Geosciences
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Integrated surface/subsurface models for simulating the thermal hydrology of permafrost-affected regions in a warming climate have recently become available, but computational demands of those new process-rich simulation tools have thus far limited their applications to one-dimensional or small two-dimensional simulations.We present a mixed-dimensional model structure for efficiently simulating surface/subsurface thermal hydrology in low-relief permafrost regions at watershed scales. The approach replaces a full three-dimensional system with a two-dimensional overland thermal hydrology system and a family of one-dimensional vertical columns, where each column represents a fully coupled surface/subsurface thermal hydrology system without lateral flow. The system is then operator split, sequentially updating the overland flow system without sources and the one-dimensional columns without lateral flows. We show that the approach is highly scalable, supports subcycling of different processes, and compares well with the corresponding fully three-dimensional representation at significantly less computational cost. Those advances enable recently developedrepresentations of freezing soil physics to be coupled with thermal overland flow and surface energy balance at scales of 100s of meters. Although developed and demonstrated for permafrost thermal hydrology, the mixed-dimensional model structure is applicable to integrated surface/subsurface thermal hydrology in general.