Benchmarking the accuracy of higher order particle methods in geodynamic models of transient flow
Abstract. Numerical models are a powerful tool for investigating the dynamic processes in the interior of the Earth and other planets, but the reliability and predictive power of these discretized models depends on the numerical method, as well as an accurate representation of material properties in space and time. In the specific context of geodynamic models, particle methods have been applied extensively because of their suitability for advection-dominated processes, and have been used in applications such as tracking the composition of solid rock and melt in the Earth’s mantle, fluids in lithospheric- and crustal- scale models, light elements in the liquid core, and deformation properties like accumulated finite strain or mineral grain size, along with many applications outside the Earth sciences.
There have been significant benchmarking efforts to measure the accuracy and convergence behavior of particle methods, but these efforts have largely been limited to instantaneous solutions, or time-dependent models without analytical solutions. As a consequence, there is little understanding about the interplay of particle advection errors and errors introduced in the solution of the underlying transient, nonlinear flow equations. To address these limitations, we present two new dynamic benchmarks for transient Stokes flow with analytical solutions that allow us to quantify the accuracy of various advection methods in nonlinear flow. We use these benchmarks to measure the accuracy of our particle algorithm as implemented in the ASPECT geodynamic modeling software against commonly employed field methods and analytical solutions. In particular, we quantify if an algorithm that is higher-order accurate in time will allow for better overall model accuracy and verify that our algorithm reaches its intended optimal convergence rate. We then document that the observed increased accuracy of higher-order algorithms matters for geodynamic applications with an example of modeling small-scale convection underneath an oceanic plate and show that the predicted place and time of onset of small-scale convection depends significantly on the chosen particle advection method.
Descriptions and implementations of our benchmarks are openly available and can be used to verify other advection algorithms. The availability of accurate, scalable and efficient particle methods as part of the widely used open source code ASPECT will allow geodynamicists to accurately investigate more complex time-dependent geodynamic processes, such as elastic deformation, anisotropic fabric development, melt generation and migration, and grain damage.
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