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On the use of random walk models with spatially variable diffusivity

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 17:56 authored by John HunterJohn Hunter, Craig, PD, Helen PhillipsHelen Phillips
The random walk technique is commonly used to model diffusion in the environment. For a constant diffusivityK and model time-step δt, the random step should be chosen from a distribution with variance 2Kδt. However, ifK varies spatially, this choice of step leads to the accumulation of particles in regions of low diffusivity. This problem may be overcome either by the incorporation of an apparent advection velocity, or by transforming to a coordinate system in which the diffusivity is constant. The latter technique requires no immediate approximations, is applicable to any reasonable diffusivity field and is therefore the preferred approach. In this case, as with constantK, the random step should be chosen from a normal distribution, for reasons of both theoretical accuracy and computational efficiency. Three important aspects of model design are discussed: the selection of the random number generator, the time step and the total number of particles. © 1993 Academic Press, Inc.


Publication title

Journal of Computational Physics








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Academic Press Inc Elsevier Science

Place of publication

San Diego, USA

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Climate variability (excl. social impacts)

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