Biological and Environmental Research - Earth and Environmental System Sciences
Earth and Environmental System Modeling
Read this message from Gary Geernaert, director of the Climate and Environmental Sciences Division within the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Biological and Environmental Research. Read more

Earth System Model Development

Mission and Priorities

The Earth System Model Development program area supports innovative and computationally advanced earth system modeling capabilities, with the ultimate goal of providing accurate and computationally advanced representations of the fully coupled and integrated Earth system, as needed for energy and related sectoral infrastructure planning. Key examples of critical information for energy include accurate projections of water availability, drought incidence, and persistence, temperature extremes, including prolonged heat stress, probability of storms, opening of the Arctic Ocean, and sea level and storm-surge at coastal regions. To provide this information, considerable effort is needed to develop optimal-fidelity earth system simulations, with suitably accurate representation of atmospheric dynamics, clouds and chemistry, ocean circulation and biogeochemistry, land biogeochemistry and hydrology, sea ice and dynamic land ice, and in each case including elements of human activities that affect these systems such as water management and land use.

Earth System Model Development utilizes the mathematical and computational expertise within the DOE national laboratories to develop efficient, accurate and advanced algorithms for these earth system processes and to improve model initialization, optimal component coupling and uncertainty of system simulation and climate projections. The aim is to optimize the earth system codes to run efficiently on DOE computer architectures, using modern and sustainable software and workflows, providing a high-resolution coupled climate and earth system simulation capability that is vital for accurately understanding how the earth system evolve and also support DOE energy planning responsibilities.

Central to the Earth System Model Development activities is the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) project, which is developing an earth system model that efficiently runs at high-resolution on DOE high-performance computers, simulating the near-term past (for model validation) and future (3 to 4 decades) in support of the DOE science mission. E3SM will design and perform high-resolution earth system simulations, targeting the research community’s more challenging science questions, e.g., involving cloud-aerosol interactions, ice sheet physics, biogeochemistry, hydrology, ocean eddy dynamics, and the interdependence of low-frequency variability and extreme weather. Other activities supported by Earth System Model Development complement and enhance E3SM, including the development of potential future-generation capabilities within the Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) program and supporting collaborative and community codes that are developed and used by multiple climate and weather groups.

The Earth System Model Development program area contributes to the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), and coordinates its activities with the climate modeling programs at other federal agencies, particularly National Science Foundation (NSF) through the CESM project, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Programmatic Collaborations

The Earth System Model Development program area supports the development of all essential components of the coupled Earth-human system needed to simulate earth system and climate by DOE’s research community. Each component (atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and land) uses advanced variable-resolution grids, allowing ultra-high resolution information and process resolution within particular regions of interest. One example is the placement of a very high-resolution (e.g., 10 km) atmosphere near the location of a DOE Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility observatory, in order to overlap the global model’s cloud-resolving capability with higher-resolution large-eddy simulations (LES’s) and with ARM data; this integration of high-resolution models with LES and ARM observations serves as a means of studying cloud processes and the coupling with the global system. Another example is the placement of high-resolution modeling capabilities in the ocean surrounding Antarctica and along the margins of the Antarctic ice sheet. Without such high resolution, predictions would be unable to represent many of the critical processes controlling future change, e.g., involving the flow of the ocean up under ice sheets, and the dynamics where the ocean and ice sheets meet. A third example is configuring the land model using basin-gridding instead of rectangular grids to effectively study the water flow and supply changes within specific basins.

For global atmospheric models, partners with BER’s Atmospheric System Research (ASR) program to develop cloud and aerosol parameterizations needed to understand how clouds are shifting and influencing climate sensitivity. The multiscale Climate Model Development and Validation (CMDV) program also supports projects that study cloud and aerosol processes, spanning scales from large-eddy simulation (LES) scale to global-model scale, and validating the simulations using Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility data, as well as other measurements.

For land modeling, this program area collaborates with Terrestrial Ecosystem Science (TES) to develop global land model parameterizations, incorporating modeling capabilities that are based on TES field investigations within particular regions. CMDV also supports liaisons that interconnect the modeling activities between E3SM and the Next Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE) in the Tropics and the Arctic. These joint efforts are contributing new hydrologic and dynamic ecosystem representations to the E3SM model, using validation from field investigations.

The Earth System Model Development and Multisector Dynamics program areas ollaborate on the development of coupled human-natural systems, such as understanding how land and water management activities affect the Earth's system, as needed for optimal detailed earth system simulations. An important example is the alignment and coordination between E3SM and Global Change Assessment Model (GCAM) integrated assessment model. The Integrated Earth System Model project directly coded and coupled the interactions between the climate model CESM and the integrated assessment model GCAM through the terrestrial-carbon cycle. The code from this project will be released to the community in 2017 and will be included in the ACME model for further development.

Earth System Model Development and Regional and Global Model Analysis (RGMA) are complementary programs, with Earth System Model Development supporting primarily model development, and RGMA focused on model analysis, intercomparison, metrics and validation, as well as using the models to evaluate system sensitivities and feedbacks. Important synergies include high-latitude modeling and research, biogeochemical feedbacks and the international Land Modeling Benchmarking (iLAMB) project, use of climate-modeling metrics and diagnostics (e.g., Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI) metrics for E3SM), and the use of high-resolution models such as E3SM to study extremes.

Computation and Programmatic ASCR and BER Collaborations

Essential to Earth System Model Development activities is its collaboration with the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) Office, in particular, the SciDAC partnership program. SciDAC supports partnership between ASCR and the other Office of Science offices, in order to dramatically accelerate progress in scientific computing. Examples of advances in the BER-Model Development and SciDAC projects include the development of: variable-resolution earth system components, algorithms and mathematical methods to improve efficiency and accuracy of earth system component simulation on advanced computational architectures, uncertainty characterization of modeling systems, and advances in code performance and portability.

Current joint projects with SciDAC include developing future capabilities needed in the E3SM, originally known as the Accelerated Climate Modeling for Energy (ACME) model, such as next-generation dynamic and variable-resolution ice sheet models (Predicting Ice Sheet and Climate Evolution at Extreme Scales [PISCEES]), improved treatments of atmospheric convection and physics, and oceanic eddies that apply across their variable-mesh atmosphere and ocean components (Multiscale Methods for Accurate, Efficient, and Scale-Aware Models of the Earth System), and the next-generation version of E3SM atmosphere, which will include non-hydrostatic dynamics, as needed when the model approaches very high-resolution (less than 10km) (A Non-hydrostatic Variable Resolution Atmospheric Model in ACME).

In order for E3SM to develop sustainable and portable codes, state-of-science software development methods are important. The Climate Model Development and Validation Program’s ACME-SM: A Global Climate Model Software Modernization Surge is transforming E3SM atmospheric and coupler codes, introducing new infrastructure capabilities and thorough and improved testing approaches within some of the most critical sub-modules. These developments are expected to be of broad benefit to Earth's system as well as other complex, distributed, and advanced computational modeling efforts.

Since E3SM will be producing very high-resolution, and high-frequency (sub-daily) model output, workflows to manage (download, move, store and analyze) large model outputs are needed. Earth System Model Development collaborates with BER’s Data Management (DM) on the infrastructure and tools needed for managing large model output data sets. The Earth System Grid Federation (ESGF), supported by DM, is critical for hosting and sharing the data generated by E3SM and other climate models. E3SM’s support of UV-CDAT and similar model analytic tools are also of use to ESGF user communities.

Community Projects Supported by Earth System Model Development

The Earth System Model Development program area supports many code and component developments that are used by multiple modeling groups, and in some cases, supported jointly with other sponsors.

  • Common Infrastructure for Modeling the Earth (CIME) is jointly developed between E3SM and the CESM software engineering groups to provide various tools and infrastructure for the CESM and E3SM models.
  • The sea-ice (CICE) model is a collaborative activity led by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory together with scientists from several other climate and operational modeling centers and groups.
  • Ultrascale Visualization (UV-CDAT) is a software package for analysis, visualization and management of Earth system model output. It is part of the E3SM project, but is used broadly and co-sponsored by NASA as well as DOE.
  • Functionally Assembled Terrestrial Ecosystem Simulator (FATES) is a tropical ecosystem model under development as part of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Sciences (TES) Next Generation Ecosystem Experiment (NGEE) – Tropics and is co-supported by Earth System Model Development.
  • MARBL: Marine Biogeochemistry Library is developing a modular ocean biogeochemistry (BGC) capability for use in both E3SM and CESM and to include options of BGC complexity as needed for a range of research projects.
  • Community Emissions Data System (CEDS) is establishing a comprehensive emissions database for earth system models, with a focus on short-lived species such as aerosols and ozone precursors, with the emissions subdivided by processes in a manner that will allow evaluation of emissions uncertainty.
  • Cloud Layers Unified by Binormals (CLUBB) is a cloud and turbulence parameterization used in the E3SM model as well as other earth system models and has been supported by NSF and NOAA, as well as DOE.
Examples of Additional Projects Supported by Earth System Model Development

Recent Content

Recent Highlights

The effects of rising atmospheric CO2 on tropical forests have been the focus of a large body of research, and the question of whether intact tropical forests will act as a large CO2 sink remains contested. Evidence supporting a sink, using pan-tropical inventory analyses, has suggested that the...
Earth system models describe interactions between land, freshwater, and the atmosphere. These models cover the Earth’s surface with a mesh to simulate processes, such as clouds, precipitation, water flow, and air movement at each grid point on the mesh. Because computing resources are limited, the...
We explore the potential impacts of explicitly resolved ice-shelf melt fluxes on Southern Ocean sea-ice and ocean processes. To do that, we use E3SM’s novel capability of simulating heat and freshwater exchange within ice-shelf cavities to compare simulations with and without ice-shelf melt fluxes...
Human activities and Earth’s natural systems impact and influence each other. Climate influences agricultural production, renewable energy potential, and water availability, for example, while human activities that lead to emissions from energy production, industry and land use changes alter...
Floods account for a significant and increasing number of reported natural hazards globally. As extreme precipitation is projected to increase in a warmer climate, there is an urgent need to improve understanding and modeling of floods to improve flood prediction and inform infrastructure planning...
The changes in the start of season (SOS) and the covariation between SOS and temperature () were investigated using remote-sensing SOS observations and processes-based phenology models for 85 large cities and adjacent rural areas across the conterminous United States for the period 2001–2014.
Radiocarbon (14C) is a powerful tracer of the global carbon cycle that is commonly used to assess carbon cycling rates in various Earth system reservoirs and as a benchmark to assess model performance. Therefore, it has been recommended that Earth System Models (ESMs) participating in the Coupled...
To reproduce the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) characteristics and position and strength of the surface zonal wind stress, the ability of two ensembles of Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) simulations, E3SM-HIST and AMIP, is assessed. The variability and change of the SAM in the two CO2...
Climate exhibits substantial internal variability, but existing ice sheet model simulations projecting sea-level rise ignore this. We added variability to the ocean temperatures that force the melting beneath the ice shelf of Thwaites Glacier in a model and found that the inclusion of variability...
This study documents the first coupled high-resolution simulation of the E3SMv1 model. This simulation is generally superior to results from the low-resolution configuration of E3SMv1 and compares favorably to models in the CMIP5 ensemble. Surprisingly, changing resolution had little effect on...

Recent Publications

There is large uncertainty whether Amazon forests will remain a carbon sink as atmospheric CO2 increases. Hence, we simulated an old‐growth tropical forest using six versions of four terrestrial models differing in scale of vegetation structure and representation of biogeochemical (BGC) cycling,...
Topography exerts major control on land surface processes. To improve representation of topographic impacts on land surface processes, a new topography‐based subgrid structure has been introduced to the Energy Exascale Earth System Model to represent the subgrid heterogeneity of surface elevation....
The Southern Ocean overturning circulation is driven by winds, heat fluxes, and freshwater sources. Among these sources of freshwater, Antarctic sea-ice formation and melting play the dominant role. Even though ice-shelf melt is relatively small in magnitude, it is located close to regions of...
The human and Earth systems are intricately linked: Climate influences agricultural production, renewable energy potential, and water availability, for example, while anthropogenic emissions from industry and land use change alter temperature and precipitation. Such feedbacks have the potential to...
Despite the serious threats posed by floods, the driving mechanisms of floods are still not well understood. Here we apply a physically based inundation model coupled with a river routing model (Model for Scale Adaptive River Transport (MOSART)) within the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM)...
Urbanization has caused environmental changes, such as urban heat island (UHI), that affect terrestrial ecosystems. However, how and to what extent urbanization affects plant phenology remains relatively unexplored. Here, we investigated the changes in the satellite-derived start of season (SOS)...
Radiocarbon (14C) is a powerful tracer of the global carbon cycle that is commonly used to assess carbon cycling rates in various Earth system reservoirs and as a benchmark to assess model performance. Therefore, it has been recommended that Earth System Models (ESMs) participating in the Coupled...
Climate variability and change in the Southern Hemisphere (SH) are influenced by the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) and are closely related to changes in the kinematic properties of the SH surface zonal winds. The SAM and SH surface zonal winds have strong effects on the atmospheric and oceanic...
Modeling and observations suggest that Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, has begun an unstable retreat. Concurrently, oceanographic observations have revealed substantial multiyear variability in the temperature of the ocean water driving retreat through melting of the ice shelf that restrains...
This study provides an overview of the coupled high-resolution version 1 of the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SMv1) and documents the characteristics of a 50 year long high-resolution control simulation with time-invariant 1950 forcings following the HighResMIP protocol. In terms of global...