Multi-scale Digital Twin: Developing a fast and physics-informed surrogate model for groundwater contamination with uncertain climate models

Soil and groundwater contamination is a pervasive problem at thousands of locations across the world. Contaminated sites often require decades to remediate or to monitor natural attenuation. Climate change exacerbates the long-term site management problem because extreme precipitation and/or shifts in precipitation/evapotranspiration regimes could re-mobilize contaminants and proliferate affected groundwater. To quickly assess the spatiotemporal variations of groundwater contamination under uncertain climate disturbances, we developed a physics-informed machine learning surrogate model using U-Net enhanced Fourier Neural Operator (U-FNO) to solve Partial Differential Equations (PDEs) of groundwater flow and transport simulations at the site scale.We develop a combined loss function that includes both data-driven factors and physical boundary constraints at multiple spatiotemporal scales. Our U-FNOs can reliably predict the spatiotemporal variations of groundwater flow and contaminant transport properties from 1954 to 2100 with realistic climate projections. In parallel, we develop a convolutional autoencoder combined with online clustering to reduce the dimensionality of the vast historical and projected climate data by quantifying climatic region similarities across the United States. The ML-based unique climate clusters provide climate projections for the surrogate modeling and help return reliable future recharge rate projections immediately without querying large climate datasets. In all, this Multi-scale Digital Twin work can advance the field of environmental remediation under climate change.

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