Earth System Modeling

Earth System Modeling Mission and Priorities

The Earth System Modeling (ESM) Program supports the development of innovative 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. In order to provide this information, considerable effort is needed to develop optimal-fidelity climate and 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.

ESM utilizes the mathematical and computational expertise within the DOE-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 computers architectures, using modern and sustainable software and workflows, providing the Nation with a high-resolution coupled climate and Earth system simulation capability that is vital for accurately understanding how the climate and earth system evolve and also support DOE responsibilities involving energy planning.

Central to the ESM Program is the Accelerated Climate Modeling for Energy (ACME) project, launched by BER in 2014 to develop a high-resolution Earth system model that efficiently runs at high-resolution on DOE leadership computers, simulating the near-term past (for validation) and future (3-4 decades, to 2050) in support of the DOE science mission. ACME 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 ESM complement and enhance ACME, including the development of potential future-generation ACME 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 ESM Program contributes to the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), and coordinates its activities with the climate modeling programs at other federal agencies, particularly the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the CESM project, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

ESM and BER Programmatic Collaborations

ESM 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) use 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 ARM site, in order to overlap the global-model’s cloud-resolving capability with higher-resolution Large-Eddy-Simulations (LES’s) and with the 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 the ice-sheet, and the dynamics in the ice sheet where the ocean and ice meet. A third example is configuring the land model using basin-gridding instead of rectangular grids in order to effectively study the water flow and supply changes within specific basins.

For global atmospheric models, ESM 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 multi-scale 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 Facility data as well as other measurements.

For land modeling, ESM collaborates with Terrestrial Ecosystem Science 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 ACME 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 ACME model, using validation from field investigations.

ESM and Integrated Assessment Research (IAR) collaborate on the development of coupled human-natural systems, such as understanding how land and water management activities affect the Earth system, as needed for optimal detailed Earth system simulations. An important example is the alignment and coordination between the ACME and the 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.

ESM and Regional and Global Climate Modeling (RGCM) are complementary Programs, with ESM supporting primarily model development, and RGCM 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 Bencharking (iLAMB) project, use of climate-modeling metrics and diagnostics (e.g. Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI) metrics for ACME), and the use of high-resolution models such as ACME to study extremes.

ESM Computation and Programmatic ASCR and BER Collaborations

Essential to ESM 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-ESM-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 BER-ESM-SciDAC projects are developing future capabilities needed in the ACME model, including 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 ACME 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 ACME 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 ACME’s 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 system as well as other complex, distributed and advanced computational modeling efforts.

Since ACME 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. ESM collaborates with BER’s Data Management (DM) on the infrastructure and tools needed for managing large model ouput datasets. The Earth System Grid Federation (ESGF), supported by DM, is critical for hosting and sharing the data generated by ACME and other climate models. ACME’s support of UV-CDAT and similar model analytic tools are also of use to ESGF user communities.

Community Projects Supported by ESM
  • ESM supports many code and component developments that are used by multiple modeling groups, and in some cases supported jointly with other sponsors.
  • The Common Infrastructure for Modeling the Earth (CIME) is jointly developed between ACME and the CESM software engineering groups, to provide various tools and infrastructure for the CESM and ACME 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 ACME project, but is used broadly and co-sponsored by NASA as well as DOE.
  • The 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 ESM.
  • The MARBL: Marine Biogeochemistry Library (led by Long, NCAR) is developing a modular ocean biogeochemistry (BGC) capability for use in both ACME and the Community Earth System Model (CESM), and to include options of BGC complexity as needed for a range of research projects.
  • The Community Emissions Data System (CEDS) (led by Smith, PNNL) 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.
  • The Cloud Layers Unified by Binormals (CLUBB) is a cloud and turbulence parameterization used in the ACME 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 ESM

Recent Content

Recent Highlights

Stokes-flow ice sheet models are commonly used to generate solutions of reference for ice sheet model intercomparison test cases. To date, a single model, Elmer-Ice, has been used by the community for generating these reference solutions. We conduct a detailed comparison with a second Stokes model...
We present a new, online software framework for use in validating model simulations of the Greenland ice sheet, which makes use of satellite-based surface elevation and mass change observations over the past two decades. We use high-resolution ice sheet model simulations to demonstrate the...
Cumulus towers, those tall storm-forming clouds, and rain shafts are familiar examples of coherent vertical structures in clouds and precipitation, but current models don’t represent them well. This new study found that incorporating more information about the water/ice particles can improve how...
Develop, calibrate, and test a nutrient competition model that accounts for multiple soil nutrients and abiotic consumers Calibrate and test model against N and P fertilization experiments Predict dynamic competitive regimes
This paper solves the numerical difficulty in handling multi-substrate co-limitation in all types of biogeochemical models.  We demonstrate the approach for a C, N, and P reaction network


We present a comparison of the numerics and simulation results for two “full” Stokes ice sheet models, FELIX-S and Elmer/Ice. The models are applied to the Marine Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project for plan view models (MISMIP3d). For diagnostic experiments, the two models give similar...
We propose a new ice sheet model validation framework -- the Cryospheric Model Comparison Tool (CmCt) -- that takes advantage of ice sheet altimetry and gravimetry observations collected over the past several decades and is applied here to modeling of the Greenland ice sheet. We use realistic...
Foreword Water resource scarcity, variability, and uncertainty are becoming more prominent both domestically and internationally. Because energy and water are interdependent, the availability and predictability of water resources can directly affect energy systems. We cannot assume the future is...
Coarse-resolution climate models increasingly rely on probability density functions (PDFs) to represent subgrid-scale variability of prognostic variables. While PDFs characterize the horizontal variability, a separate treatment is needed to account for the vertical structure of clouds and...
Soil is a complex system where biotic (e.g., plant roots, micro-organisms) and abiotic (e.g., mineral surfaces) consumers compete for resources necessary for life (e.g., nitrogen, phosphorus). This competition is ecologically significant, since it regulates the dynamics of soil nutrients and...