Numerical analysis of air‐water‐heat flow in unsaturated soil: Is it necessary to consider airflow in land surface models?

Yijian Zeng, Zhongbo Su, Li Wan, Jun Wen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)
125 Downloads (Pure)


From a subsurface physical point of view, this paper discusses the necessity of considering the two‐phase heat and mass transfer process in land surface models (LSMs). The potential‐based equations of coupled mass and heat transport under constant air pressure form the basis of the proposed model. The model is developed considering dry air as a single phase, and including mechanical dispersion in the water vapor and dry air transfer. The adsorbed liquid flux due to thermal gradient is also taken into account. The set of equations for the two‐phase heat and mass transfer is formulated fully considering diffusion, advection, and dispersion. The advantage of the proposed model over the traditional equation system is discussed. The accuracy of the proposed model is assessed through comparison with analytical work for coupled mass and heat transfer and experimental work for isothermal two‐phase flow (moisture/air transfer). The influence adding airflow has on the coupled moisture and heat transfer is further investigated, clearly identifying the importance of including airflow in the coupled mass and heat transfer. How the isothermal two‐phase flow is affected by considering heat flow is also evaluated, showing the influence of heat flow only to be significant if the air phase plays a significant role in solving the equations of the water phase. On the basis of a field experiment, the proposed model is compared with the measured soil moisture, temperature, and evaporation rate, the results showing clearly that it is necessary to consider the airflow mechanism in soil‐atmosphere interaction studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberD20107
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of geophysical research : Atmospheres
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • METIS-304163


Dive into the research topics of 'Numerical analysis of air‐water‐heat flow in unsaturated soil: Is it necessary to consider airflow in land surface models?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this