Field Test of a Hybrid Finite-Difference and Analytic Element Regional Model

D. B. Abrams, H. M. Haitjema, D. T. Feinstein, R. J. Hunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Regional finite-difference models often have cell sizes that are too large to sufficiently model well-stream interactions. Here, a steady-state hybrid model is applied whereby the upper layer or layers of a coarse MODFLOW model are replaced by the analytic element model GFLOW, which represents surface waters and wells as line and point sinks. The two models are coupled by transferring cell-by-cell leakage obtained from the original MODFLOW model to the bottom of the GFLOW model. A real-world test of the hybrid model approach is applied on a subdomain of an existing model of the Lake Michigan Basin. The original (coarse) MODFLOW model consists of six layers, the top four of which are aggregated into GFLOW as a single layer, while the bottom two layers remain part of MODFLOW in the hybrid model. The hybrid model and a refined "benchmark" MODFLOW model simulate similar baseflows. The hybrid and benchmark models also simulate similar baseflow reductions due to nearby pumping when the well is located within the layers represented by GFLOW. However, the benchmark model requires refinement of the model grid in the local area of interest, while the hybrid approach uses a gridless top layer and is thus unaffected by grid discretization errors. The hybrid approach is well suited to facilitate cost-effective retrofitting of existing coarse grid MODFLOW models commonly used for regional studies because it leverages the strengths of both finite-difference and analytic element methods for predictions in mildly heterogeneous systems that can be simulated with steady-state conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-73
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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