|Thermal stream loadings from both natural and anthropogenic sources have significant relevance with respect to ecosystem health and water resources management, particularly in the context of future climate change. In recent years, there has been an increase in field-based research directed towards characterizing thermal energy transport exchange processes that occur at the surface water/groundwater interface of streams. In spite of this effort, relatively little work has been performed to simulate these exchanges and elucidate their roles in mediating surface water temperatures and to simultaneously take into account all the pertinent hydrological, meteorological and surface/variably-saturated subsurface processes. To address this issue, HydroGeoSphere, a fully-integrated surface/subsurface flow and transport model, was enhanced to include fully-integrated thermal energy transport. HydroGeoSphere can simulate water flow, evapotranspiration, and advective-dispersive heat and solute transport over the 2D land surface and water flow and heat and solute transport in 3D subsurface variably-saturated conditions.
In this work, the new thermal capabilities of HydroGeoSphere are tested and verified by comparing HydroGeoSphere simulation results to those from a previous subsurface thermal groundwater injection study, and also by simulating an example of atmospheric thermal energy exchange. A proof of concept simulation is also presented which illustrates the ability of HydroGeoSphere to simulate fully-integrated surface/subsurface thermal energy transport. High-resolution 3D numerical simulations of a well-characterized reach of the Pine River in Ontario, Canada are also presented to demonstrate steady-state thermal energy transport in an atmosphere-groundwater-surface water system. The HydroGeoSphere simulation successfully matched the spatial variations in the thermal patterns observed in the river bed, the surface water and the groundwater.
Transient simulations of the high-resolution Pine River domain are also presented. Diurnal atmospheric conditions were incorporated to illustrate the importance of fluctuations in atmospheric parameters on the entire hydrologic regime. The diurnal atmospheric input fluxes were found to not only change the temperatures of the surface and subsurface throughout the cycle, but also the magnitude and direction of the transfer of thermal energy between the surface and subsurface.
Precipitation events were also simulated for the Pine River domain using three different rainfall rates. The surface temperatures responded quickly to the rainfall events, whereas the subsurface temperatures were slower to respond in regions where infiltration was not significant. A thermal energy signal from the precipitation event was evident in the subsurface, and dissipated once the rainfall ceased. This indicates that temperature can potentially be used as a tracer for hydrograph separation.
The potential of a thermal energy tracer for hydrograph separation was investigated using HydroGeoSphere simulations of the Borden rainfall-runoff experiment. These results matched both measured and previous simulation results using a bromide tracer. The hydrograph separation results from the thermal energy tracer were sensitive to temperature conditions in the subsurface, although this sensitivity reduced considerably when the precipitation event and subsurface temperatures were significantly different.
The contribution of each atmospheric component to thermal energy transport was investigated using the Pine River and Borden examples. Each atmospheric component was individually neglected from the simulation of both sites to investigate their impact on thermal energy transport. The results show that longwave radiation dominates the atmospheric inputs for the Borden example, whereas shortwave radiation dominates in the Pine River example. This indicates that the atmospheric contributions to the thermal energy distribution are site-specific and cannot be generalized. In addition, these results indicate that the atmospheric contributions should not be ignored; measuring atmospheric data in the field is an important component in developing an accurate thermal energy transport model.
The addition of thermal energy transport to HydroGeoSphere provides a valuable tool for investigating the impact of anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic changes to the atmospheric and hydrological thermal energy system. This computational framework can be used to provide quantitative guidance towards establishing the conditions needed to maintain a healthy ecosystem.