The importance of alternative conceptual models for simulation of concentrations in a multi-aquifer system

Lars Troldborg, Jens Christian Refsgaard, Karsten Høgh Jensen, Peter Engesgaard

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftArtikelForskningpeer review

77 Citationer (Scopus)


Four different conceptual models based on alternative geological interpretations were formulated for a shallow 600km2 aquifer system in Denmark comprising Quaternary deposits. Each of the four models was calibrated against groundwater heads and discharge measurements through inverse modeling. Subsequently, the transport capabilities of the four models were compared to 32 concentration measurements of environmental tracers (tritium 3H, helium-33He, chlorofluorocarbons CFC11, CFC12 and CFC113). The flow simulations showed only minor differences in spatial head distribution associated with alternative conceptualizations despite the complexity of the aquifer system and the significant differences in geological interpretations. The models, however, showed major differences in predictions of the age of the groundwater and environmental tracer concentrations, differences that are seen as an effect of model structure uncertainty, because no additional calibrations to these data were performed. A single conceptualization may be adequate in characterizing the natural behavior of a field system after calibration, because the calibration procedure is able to compensate for errors in the data or in the conceptual model through biased parameter values. However, once extrapolation beyond the calibration base is attempted, different conceptual model formulations result in significantly different results. Consequently, it is crucial to take model conceptual uncertainty into account when making predictions beyond the calibration base.

Sider (fra-til)843-860
Antal sider18
TidsskriftHydrogeology Journal
Udgave nummer5
StatusUdgivet - aug. 2007


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