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Journal Articles Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors Year : 2008

DOUAR : A new three-dimensional creeping flow numerical model for the solution of geological problems

Jean Braun
  • Function : Author
Philippe Fullsack
  • Function : Author
Et Al.
  • Function : Author


We present a new finite element code for the solution of the Stokes and energy (or heat transport) equationsthat has been purposely designed to address crustal-scale to mantle-scale flow problems in three dimensions. Although it is based on an Eulerian description of deformation and flow, the code, which we named DOUAR ('Earth' in Breton language), has the ability to track interfaces and, in particular, the free surface, by using a dual representation based on a set of particles placed on the interface and the computation of a level set function on the nodes of the finite element grid, thus ensuring accuracy and efficiency.The code also makes use of a newmethod to compute the dynamic Delaunay triangulation connecting the particles based on non-Euclidian, curvilinear measure of distance, ensuring that the density of particles remains uniform and/or dynamically adapted to the curvature of the interface. The finite element discretization is based on a non-uniform, yet regular octree division of space within a unit cube that allows efficient adaptation of the finite element discretization, i.e. in regions of strong velocity gradient or high interface curvature. The finite elements are cubes (the leaves of the octree) in which a q1­p0 interpolation scheme is used. Nodal incompatibilities across faces separating elements of differing size are dealt with by introducing linear constraints among nodal degrees of freedom. Discontinuities in material properties across the interfaces are accommodated by the use of a novel method (which we called divFEM) to integrate the finite element equations in which the elemental volume is divided by a local octree to an appropriate depth (resolution).Avariety of rheologies have beenimplemented including linear, non-linear and thermally activated creep and brittle (or plastic) frictional deformation. A simple smoothing operator has been defined to avoid checkerboard oscillations in pressure that tend to develop when using a highly irregular octree discretization and the tri-linear (or q1­p0) finite element. A three-dimensional cloud of particles is used to track material properties that depend on the integrated history of deformation (the integrated strain, for example); its density is variable and dynamically adapted to the computed flow. The large system of algebraic equations that results fromthe finite element discretization and linearization of the basic partial differential equations is solved using a multi-frontal massively parallel direct solver that can efficiently factorize poorly conditioned systems resulting from the highly non-linear rheology and the presence of the free surface. The code is almost entirely parallelized.We present example results including the onset of a Rayleigh­Taylor instability, the indentation of a rigid-plastic material and the formation of a fold beneath a free eroding surface, that demonstrate the accuracy, efficiency and appropriateness of the new code to solve complex geodynamical problems in three dimensions.

Dates and versions

insu-00352935 , version 1 (14-01-2009)



Jean Braun, Cédric Thieulot, Philippe Fullsack, Et Al.. DOUAR : A new three-dimensional creeping flow numerical model for the solution of geological problems. Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, 2008, 171 (1-4), pp.76-91. ⟨10.1016/j.pepi.2008.05.003⟩. ⟨insu-00352935⟩
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