Modeling the Earth System

Creating a first generation Earth system model that fully simulates the coupling between the physical, chemical, and biogeochemical processes in the climate system

John B. Drake (project webpage)
Oak Ridge National Laboratory

The grand challenge for climate modeling is to predict future climates based on scenarios of anthropogenic emissions and other changes resulting from options in energy policies. The challenge for this SciDAC project is to transform an existing, state-of-the-science, third-generation global climate model, the Community Climate System Model (CCSM3), to a first-generation Earth system model that fully simulates the coupling between the physical, chemical, and biogeochemical processes in the climate system. The model will incorporate new processes necessary to predict future climates based on the specification of greenhouse gas emissions rather than specification of atmospheric concentrations, as is done in present models, which make assumptions about the carbon cycle that are likely not valid. This project will include comprehensive treatments of the processes governing well-mixed greenhouse gases, natural and anthropogenic aerosols, the aerosol indirect effect and tropospheric ozone for climate change studies. This project will improve the representation of carbon and chemical processes, particularly for treatment of greenhouse gas emissions and aerosol feedbacks in collaboration with the DOE Atmospheric Science Program, DOE Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program, and DOE Terrestrial Carbon Programs.

These additions are not possible unless the software and testing framework of the CCSM is also improved to enable the rapid integration and evaluation of new components. To focus these efforts, specific integration tasks are proposed: inclusion of a new ice sheet model, more flexible horizontal and vertical grids and advanced dynamical formulations. Integration and evaluation work will rely on collaboration with other SciDAC Centers for Enabling Technologies and Scientific Application Partnerships. During the integration of new methods and new chemical and biogeochemical processes, the team will ensure that the model continues to perform well on DOE computational platforms. Methods that improve scalability to thousands of processors will be introduced, maximizing the length and number of simulations that can be performed, and facilitating the aggressive schedule of simulations required for scheduled national and international climate change assessments to which the CCSM is committed as part of the national Climate Change Science Program strategy.

This project has relevance to efforts to deliver improved climate data and models for policy makers to determine safe levels of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere and to reduce differences between observed and model simulated temperatures at sub-continental scales, based on the use of several decades of recent data. The focus of the project is getting version 4 of the Community Climate System Model (CCSM) ready in the timeframe of 2009.

Science Application: Climate Modeling and Simulation

Project Title: A Scalable and Extensible Earth System Model for Climate Change Science.
Includes two Science Application Partnerships — Statistical Approaches to Aerosol Dynamics for Climate Simulation (McGraw); and Performance Engineering for the Next Generation Community Climate System Model (Worley)

Principal Investigator: John B. Drake
Affiliation: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Project Webpage:

Participating Institutions and Co-Investigators:
Argonne National Laboratory - Robert Jacob, Ray Loy
Brookhaven National Laboratory - Robert McGraw
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory - Michael Wehner
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory - Phillip Cameron-Smith, Arthur Mirin, Cathy Chuang, Cyndi Atherton, and Peter Connell
Los Alamos National Laboratory - Philip Jones (Co-PI), Scott Elliot, William Lipscomb, and Matt Maltrud
National Center for Atmospheric Research - William Collins, Tony Craig, Peter Gent, Jean Francois Lamarque, Mariana Vertenstein, and Warren Washington
Oak Ridge National Laboratory - John B. Drake (PI), David Erickson, Forest Hoffman, and Patrick Worley
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory - Steven Ghan
Sandia National Laboratories - Mark Taylor
State University of New York at Stony Brook - Wei Zhu

Funding Partners: Office of ScienceOffice of Advanced Scientific Computing Research, and Office of Biological and Environmental Research

Budget and Duration: Approximately $4.8 million per year for five years 1

Other SciDAC climate efforts

1Subject to acceptable progress review and the availability of appropriated funds


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