Spatial Interpolation Methods for Nonstationary Plume Data

Patrick M. Reed, Timothy R. Ellsworth, Barbara S. Minsker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Plume interpolation consists of estimating contaminant concentrations at unsampled locations using the available contaminant data surrounding those locations. The goal of ground water plume interpolation is to maximize the accuracy in estimating the spatial distribution of the contaminant plume given the data limitations associated with sparse monitoring networks with irregular geometries. Beyond data limitations, contaminant plume interpolation is a difficult task because contaminant concentration fields are highly heterogeneous, anisotropic, and nonstationary phenomena. This study provides a comprehensive performance analysis of six interpolation methods for scatter-point concentration data, ranging in complexity from intrinsic kriging based on intrinsic random function theory to a traditional implementation of inverse-distance weighting. High resolution simulation data of perchloroethylene (PCE) contamination in a highly heterogeneous alluvial aquifer were used to generate three test cases, which vary in the size and complexity of their contaminant plumes as well as the number of data available to support interpolation. Overall, the variability of PCE samples and preferential sampling controlled how well each of the interpolation schemes performed. Quantile kriging was the most robust of the interpolation methods, showing the least bias from both of these factors. This study provides guidance to practitioners balancing opposing theoretical perspectives, ease-of- implementation, and effectiveness when choosing a plume interpolation method.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-202
Number of pages13
JournalGround Water
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Spatial Interpolation Methods for Nonstationary Plume Data'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this