Development of the Hydrus-1D freezing module and its application in simulating the coupled movement of water, vapor, and heat

C. Zheng, J. Šimůnek, Y. Zhao, Y. Lu, X. Liu*, C. Shi, H. Li, Lianyu Yu, Yijian Zeng, Zhongbo Su

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
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In cold regions, freeze-thaw cycles play a critical role in many engineering and agricultural applications and cause soil water flow and heat transport studies to be much more complicated due to phase changes involved. A fully coupled numerical module for simulating the simultaneous movement of water, vapor, and heat during freezing-thawing periods was developed and incorporated in the Hydrus-1D software in this study. To avoid numerical instabilities caused by a sudden increase in the apparent heat capacity during a phase change, a new approach based on the available energy concept was adopted to adjust soil temperature when the freezing temperature is reached. The proposed freezing module's performance was then validated using experimental data collected at three field sites with typical seasonal freezing/thawing processes. Results showed that the model could efficiently obtain a convergent solution and that simulated soil moisture and temperature variations captured the observed data well. Driven by soil matric potential and temperature gradients, both liquid water and water vapor flowed towards the freezing front. The isothermal liquid flux was the most significant component of overall flow in most soil depths except in the frozen layer, where it decreased by 1–5 orders of magnitude from values before freezing. Instead, the thermal vapor flux was the dominant moisture transfer mechanism in the frozen layer and contributed about 10% to the ice formation. These results indicate that the model, which considers the coupled movement of water, vapor, and heat, can better describe the physical mechanisms of the hydrological cycle in the vadose zone during the freezing-thawing periods. © 2021 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Article number126250
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of hydrology
Early online date26 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Freeze-thaw process
  • Hydrus-1D
  • Soil temperature
  • Unfrozen water content
  • Vapor flow
  • 2024 OA procedure


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