Climate and Environmental Sciences Division (CESD)

Earth System Modeling (ESM) Program

Program Mission and Description

The Earth System Modeling (ESM) Program improves the Community Earth System Model’sExternal link (CESM’s) physical representations for clouds, aerosols, sea-ice, land-ice, ocean, land hydrology, land/ocean biogeochemistry and human activities. ESM utilizes DOE computational expertise under the BER-ASCR (Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research Scientific Discovery through Advanced ComputingExternal link (SciDAC) program to optimize model performance on leadership computer systems and to construct variable and high resolution model versions for improved climate and process representation. Sophisticated frameworks to test, analyze, calibrate, visualize and validate model results are also developed in order to calibrate the model against measurements, including DOE atmospheric and terrestrial data,   The goal is to simulate climate over decadal to centennial time scales, projecting Earth system changes in coming decades as needed for DOE science and mission, and providing the research that underpins the Regional and Global Modeling (RGCM) program. ESM in turn provides a climate modeling framework to guide research prioritization for the Atmospheric System Research (ASR) and Science Terrestrial Ecosystem (TES) programs.

The Program contributes to the U.S. Global Change Research ProgramExternal link (USGCRP), and coordinates its activities with the climate modeling programs at other federal agencies, particularly the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the CESMExternal linkproject, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Additional information is on the CESD climate modeling programs website.

Why the Program's Research is Important

The ESM goals are to improve the CESM fidelity critical for understanding climate change, system feedbacks and potential tipping points, and to discern climate interactions with past and possible future energy pathways. CESM development requires testing and improving individual model components as well as the coupled climate system. A critical challenge is to maximize model performance, by identifying the optimal combination of model resolution and process representation that provides informative climate representation for DOE needs. ESM also links the CESD ASR and TES research programs with the global modeling community, using process and observational research to improve climate models on the one hand, and identifying gaps and uncertainties in the climate models to guide and prioritize critical process research on the other.

Program Research Priorities

  • ESM supports development of the Community Atmosphere Model (CAM), in collaboration with the ASR program, guided by measurements from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) facility. Priorities include improvement of clouds at various model resolutions and within variable-resolution grids; development and testing of aerosol microphysical schemes to accurately simulate aerosol interactions with clouds; and improved simulations of aerosol-chemistry-climate interactions, including also ozone and methane.
  • ESM supports development of the Community Land Model (CLM), in collaboration with the TES program.  Priorities include improving simulation of model soil moisture, tropical ecosystem dynamics, evolution of boreal and Arctic land and ecosystems, and improving land interactions with the climate system. Global land models will be evaluated and used to guide TES process research by discerning most uncertain regions and parameters.
  • ESM will support modeling of the full terrestrial-ocean-atmospheric carbon cycle. This will enable comprehensive understanding of the fluxes and reservoirs of carbon and the relative importance of natural and combustion sources. CESM isotopic capabilities are being  developed and compared to measurements to  enable this distinction.
  • Another priority is modeling the coupling between land and atmosphere, including terrestrial sources of radiatively active gases and aerosols, soil moisture impacts on atmospheric processes and precipitation influence on the terrestrial systems. Precipitation distribution is expected to shift to higher latitudes as climate warms, leaving midlatitudes vulnerable to water shortage. The likelihood and impacts of midlatitude drought are of particular concern.
  • The ESM and Integrated Assessment (IA) programs collaborate toward effective coupling of the human and natural systems, such as the impacts of water and land use on the climate system and the implications of water availability on human adaption and energy choices. Impacts of energy by-products on the climate system may need to be more tightly coupled to the CESM.
  • ESM  supports development of ocean, sea-ice and land-ice components. Dynamic ice sheet models will improve processes needed to simulate ice sheet evolution and destabilization using adaptive and variable mesh grids; coupling between ice sheets and ocean will enable simulation and study of sea-level change. Sea-ice process development supports projections and analysis of sea-ice change. The variable-mesh Model Prediction Across Scales (MPAS) Ocean will be implemented, tested and improved in the CESM.
  • ESM supports development of advanced computational and software analysis tools to optimize CESM performance on DOE leadership class computers. The ESM-ASCR SciDAC partnership supports development of efficient and scale-aware system physics at increased or variable resolution for CAM-SE atmosphere, MPAS Ocean and ice sheets. New computational methods will permit the CESM to efficiently carry more interactive biogeochemical species. Uncertainty Quantification (UQ) methods will be used to guide development, calibrate parameters and parameterizations, and to facilitate interpretation of climate model projections. Sophisticated statistical model-measurement testbeds will be built to efficiently determine the model parameters with the greatest system effects and to use measurements to test and calibrate the model. Finally, ESM will pursue a comprehensive assessment of required complexity for the coupled climate system. UQ methods will be used to evaluate climate model sensitivity, feedbacks and performance, as a function of model complexity and resolution.

Program Research Activities

ESM funds both DOE National Laboratory and University led projects focused primarily on climate model development and testing, briefly described below. Laboratory projects funded by ESM include:

  • Climate Science for a Sustainable Energy Future  project is a multi-laboratory effort to transform the climate model development and testing process and thereby accelerate the development of the CESM’s sixth-generation version, CESM3, scheduled to be released for predictive simulation in the 5 to 10 year time frame.  Four research themes are addressed in the project:  (1) A focused effort for converting observational data sets into specialized, multi- variable data sets for model testing and improvement; (2) Development of model development testbeds in which model components and sub-models can be rapidly prototyped and evaluated; (3 ) Research to enhance numerical methods and computational science research focused on enabling climate models that use future computing architectures; and (4) Research to enhance efforts in uncertainty quantification for climate model simulations and predictions.
  • The BER-ASCR SciDAC Multiscale Methods for Accurate, Efficient, and Scale-Aware Models of the Earth System(MULTISCALE) project’s primary goal is to produce better models for critical processes and constituents that involve complex coupled relationships between small-scales and large-scales,, including ocean-eddy and cloud-systems, through improved physical and computational implementations. An integrated team of climate and computational scientists accelerate the development and integration of multiscale atmospheric and oceanic parameterizations into the DOE-NSF Community Earth System Model (CESM). The project delivers treatments of these processes and constituents, which are scientifically useful over resolutions ranging from 2 to 1/16 degrees.
  • The BER-ASCR SciDAC Predicting Ice Sheet and Climate Evolution at Extreme Scales(PISCEES) project is developing better computer models of large ice sheets to improve future sea level rise projections. In particular, multi-scale formulations of ice sheet dynamics are being implemented to represent the wide range of spatial scales in a robust, accurate and scalable manner. In addition, PISCEES scientists are creating new tools and techniques for validating ice sheet simulation results against observations and providing estimates of the uncertainty surrounding future projections.
  • The BER-ASCR SciDAC Applying Computationally Efficient Schemes for BioGeochemical Cycles(ACES4BGC) will improve biogeochemical earth system modeling components in the Community Earth System Model (CESM) by augmenting the representation of biogeochemical tracer species in land, atmosphere and oceans. These representations are recognized to be increasingly essential for effective simulation of climate and climate change, and impacts and feedbacks with the ecosystem.
  • The Investigation of the Magnitudes and Probabilities of Abrupt Climate Transitions (IMPACTS)  activity improves model components and investigates four potential abrupt changes to the climate system: The potential abrupt destabilization of the ice sheets at an ice-sheet ocean interface, boreal and Arctic positive climate feedbacks, rapid destabilization of methane hydrates in Arctic Ocean sediments, and mega droughts in North America, including the role of biosphere-atmosphere feedbacks.
  • Improving the Representations of Human-Earth System Interactions, brings together researchers from ESM and IA communities with an objective to integrate the economic and human dimensions modeling of Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) into the CESM. Through this effort, climate predictions will be improved and scientific understanding of climate impacts and adaptation opportunities will be enhanced.
  • The cryosphere, clouds and aerosols are responsible for some of the strongest feedbacks in the climate system and a large source of uncertainty in model-based assessments of climate change. In the Arctic, all of these elements combine to produce very rapid climate change. The project Improving the Characterization of Clouds, Aerosols and the Cryosphere in Climate Models improves the representation of polar sea ice, Greenland ice sheet mass balance, aerosol deposition, Arctic clouds, Arctic biogeochemical feedbacks, ocean circulation and fluxes and permafrost hydrology in the CESM and assesses the impact of changes in these systems for simulations of past and future climate change.
  • The Ultrascale Visualization – Climate Data Analysis Tools (UV-CDAT) is a climate model analysis and visualization project that provides software tools for manipulation, statistical analysis and visualization of large climate datasets, capabilities for non-standard grids, tracking of climate features, and more.
  • The goal of the Fast-Physics System Testbed and Research(FASTER) project is to narrow uncertainty and biases in General Circulation Models (GCMs) by utilizing continuous ARM data to enhance and accelerate evaluation and improvement of parameterizations of fast processes in GCMs involving clouds, precipitation, and aerosols. The project includes a collaboration of investigators using models with a range of scales, from cloud to regional to global. The project has six primary objectives:  Construction of a fast-physics testbed to rapidly evaluate fast physics in GCMs; execution of a suite of cloud resolving model simulations for selected periods/cases to augment the fast-physics testbed; continuous evaluation of model performance to identify and determine model errors; examination and improvement of parameterizations of key cloud processes/properties; assessment and development of metrics of model performance; and incorporation of newly acquired knowledge on parameterizations into the full participating GCMs.
  • A project that addresses the challenges and potentials of pushing global coupled climate models to very high resolution is the Ultra-High Resolution Global Climate Simulation project. The goal is to test the hypothesis that higher resolution models are necessary to accomplish the explicit simulation of nonlinear phenomena and interactions on the small scale that have feedbacks on large scale climate features; and the accurate and explicit simulation of local to regional scale phenomena, including low-probability, high-impact hydrological events.

The ESM Program also supports University-led research projects, including SciDAC projects aimed at enhancing computational, mathematical and statistical methods in climate modeling, projects that focus on development of community Earth system models and some that focus on potential abrupt changes to climate.  A selection of project titles include:

Program Funding Opportunity Announcements

Funding opportunity announcements are posted on the DOE Office of Science Grants and Contracts Web Site and at Information about preparing and submitting applications, as well as the DOE Office of Science merit review process, is at the DOE Office of Science Grants and Contracts Web Site

Program Manager

Dr. Dorothy Koch
Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, SC-23.1
Department of Energy, GTN Bldg.
1000 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20585-1290
Phone: (301) 903-0105
Fax: (301) 903-8519

Last modified: 10/1/2013 11:39:17 AM