Originally published:2003-08 as Research report (Lincoln University (Canterbury, N.Z.). Applied Computing, Mathematics and Statistics Group) ; no. 04/2003 by Lincoln University. Applied Computing, Mathematics and Statistics Group.

The effect of fluctuations in the drift velocity on dispersion by a porous medium is investigated.
An analytical model is developed which represents the effect of a single discrete step in the velocity of a 1 dimensional flow as a multiplicative factor that modifies the underlying linear growth in solute variance
predicted by the standard advection-dispersion equation. The algebraic structure of the model identifies two
variable combinations ∆ and α that characterize the step and the rate of stochastic dispersion respectively, in
terms of which a simple formula for the downstream effect of the step on dispersion is obtained. This
formalism is next applied to a sequence of 3 steps representing a velocity fluctuation, and it is shown that
while kinetic compression effects cancel out across such a fluctuation, the stochastic dispersion increases for
any plausible combination of ∆ and α. This implies that a dispersion enhancement factor ƒ is associated with
a fluctuation, and a simple formula is obtained for this in terms of variables that describe the fluctuation
length and amplitude. Moreover, the algebra leads to the definition of a natural length scale Λ related to the
Peelet number of the flow. Repeated application of this formula is used to find the cumulative dispersion
enhancement by a sequence of identical fluctuations, leading to an expression for dispersivity as a function
of the distance traversed by a solute plume. Key features of the model are that the dispersivity behaves
differently for traversal lengths above and below Λ, and that above this transition it is proportional to a
fractional power of the traversal length. These features are in agreement with experimental observation of
scale-dependent dispersivity, but quantitatively the observed growth in dispersivity over several orders of
magnitude is not obtained for any reasonable choice of parameter values.[Show full abstract]