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How often does a contaminant ‘particle’ migrating in a porous medium set a distance record, i.e., advance farther from the origin than at all previous time steps? This question is of fundamental importance in characterizing the nature of the leading edge of a contaminant plume as it is transported through an aquifer. It was proven theoretically by Majumdar and Ziff (2008) that, in the 1d case for pure diffusion, record setting of a random walker scales with n1/2, where n is the number of steps, regardless of the length and time distribution of steps. Here, we use numerical simulations, benchmarked against the 1d analytical solution, to extend this result also for pure diffusion in 2d and 3d domains. We then consider transport in the presence of a drift (i.e., advective‐dispersive transport), and show that the record‐setting pace of random walkers changes abruptly from ∝ n1/2 to ∝ n1. We explore the dependence of the prefactor on the distribution of step length and number of spatial dimensions. The key implication is that when, after a brief transitional period, the scaling regime commences, the maximum distance reached by the leading edge of a migrating contaminant plume scales linearly with n, regardless of the drift magnitude.

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Copyright 2011 by the American Geophysical Union. Article deposited here in compliance with publisher policy. Publisher's version of record:

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Geophysical Research Letters


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Physics Commons



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