Unsaturated subsurface flow with surface water and nonlinear in- and outflow conditions

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Heiko Berninger - , University of Geneva (Author)
  • Mario Ohlberger - , University of Münster (Author)
  • Oliver Sander - , RWTH Aachen University (Author)
  • Kathrin Smetana - , Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (Author)


We analytically and numerically analyze groundwater flow in a homogeneous soil described by the Richards equation, coupled to surface water represented by a set of ordinary differential equations (ODEs) on parts of the domain boundary, and with nonlinear outflow conditions of Signorini's type. The coupling of the partial differential equation (PDE) and the ODE's is given by nonlinear Robin boundary conditions. This paper provides two major new contributions regarding these infiltration conditions. First, an existence result for the continuous coupled problem is established with the help of a regularization technique. Second, we analyze and validate a solver-friendly discretization of the coupled problem based on an implicit–explicit time discretization and on finite elements in space. The discretized PDE leads to convex spatial minimization problems which can be solved efficiently by monotone multigrid. Numerical experiments are provided using the DUNE numerics framework.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)901-936
JournalMathematical Models and Methods in Applied Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

External IDs

Scopus 84897662089
ORCID /0000-0003-1093-6374/work/146644816


Library keywords