May 2006
Designing and Supporting Science-Driven Infrastructure
Timothy L. Killeen, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Horst D. Simon, NERSC Center Division, Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of California

3.4 The Earth System Modeling Framework

In another example of NCAR-supported community systems, The Earth System Modeling Framework (ESMF)7 provides a high performance common modeling infrastructure for climate and weather models and is widely available as a community-owned and managed product. It is in active use by groups working with hydrology, air quality, and space weather models. ESMF is the technical foundation for the NASA Modeling, Analysis, and Prediction (MAP) Climate Variability and Change program and the DoD Battlespace Environments Institute (BEI). It has been incorporated into the CCSM, the WRF model, and many other applications.

The key concept that underlies both ESMF is that of software components. Components are software units that are “composable,” meaning they can be combined to form coupled applications. These components may be representations of physical domains, such as atmospheres or oceans; processes within particular domains such as atmospheric radiation or chemistry; or computational functions, such as data assimilation or I/O. ESMF provides interfaces, an architecture, and tools for structuring components hierarchically to form complex, coupled modeling applications. ESMF components may be run sequentially, concurrently, or in a mixed mode on computers ranging from laptops to the world’s largest supercomputers. The ESMF project encourages a new paradigm for geosciences modeling: one in which the community can draw from a federation of many interoperable components in order to create and deploy modeling applications. The goal is to enable a rich network of collaborations and a new generation of models that can simulate the Earth’s environment and predict its behavior better than ever before.

ESMF is an open source project that is actively reaching out to universities, national laboratories, industry, and the international community. ESMF is funded by a collection of agencies, and its development priorities and direction are set by multi-agency management bodies. Although the core development team is located at NCAR, the ESMF code has a growing number of contributors from collaborating sites. The project has been remarkably successful in its ability to bring disparate groups together, from the developer level all the way up to the agency level, and to get them working towards the common goal of better models.

Because of the success of the CCSM, WRF and ESMF and other similar community projects, NCAR is considering an overarching effort to develop an “Earth System Knowledge Environment.” This environment would combine the key functions of all these programs and would lead to a fully supported and integrated “workspace” for modeling, computation, analysis, data management, data assimilation, and end-user diagnostics for the international community of geoscientists and societal decision makers charged with understanding the Earth System and its variability.

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Reference this article
Killeen, T. L., Simon, H. D. "Supporting National User Communities at NERSC and NCAR," CTWatch Quarterly, Volume 2, Number 2, May 2006. http://www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2006/05/supporting-national-user-communities-at-nersc-and-ncar/

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