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On the Reliability of Parameter Inferences in a Multiscale Model for Transport in Stream Corridors...

by Saubhagya S Rathore, Ahmad Jan, Ethan T Coon, Scott L Painter
Publication Type
Journal Name
Water Resources Research
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1 to 21

Nonreacting tracer tests capture information about physical processes in transient storage zones including the hyporheic zone (HZ). However, reliably extracting this information from breakthrough curves (BTCs) and distinguishing the effects of in-channel dispersion and transient storage are well-known challenges. Using BTCs from a nonreacting tracer test monitored at multiple locations, we explore ways for reliable parameter estimations. The identifiability of parameters is greatly influenced by the choice of forward and inverse modeling frameworks in addition to the quality of the data. Our forward model is a recently proposed multiscale model that uses subgrid transport models written in the Lagrangian form to represent transport along a diverse set of HZ pathways with a shape-free distribution of travel times. Joint distributions of HZ and channel parameters are estimated using the Markov Chain Monte Carlo technique. Numerical experiments show ambiguity between channel dispersion and HZ transport when the reach length is too short to allow significant solute-HZ interaction, the observation period is too brief to observe the tailing behavior, or the solute source is spread in time. In contrast, we obtained reliable parameter estimates by simultaneously fitting BTCs observed at different locations in the test reach using a single set of HZ parameters and section-specific channel areas and dispersion coefficients. This study demonstrates the estimation of travel time distributions, HZ exchange rates, and channel parameters in a new multiscale approach and offers guidance for extracting reliable parameter estimates from multiple BTCs.