ESM-Tools version 5.0: a modular infrastructure for stand-alone and coupled Earth system modelling (ESM)

Dirk.Barbi [ at ]


Earth system and climate modelling involves the simulation of processes on a wide range of scales and within and across various compartments of the Earth system. In practice, component models are often developed independently by different research groups, adapted by others to their special interests and then combined using a dedicated coupling software. This procedure not only leads to a strongly growing number of available versions of model components and coupled setups but also to model- and high-performance computing (HPC)-system-dependent ways of obtaining, configuring, building and operating them. Therefore, implementing these Earth system models (ESMs) can be challenging and extremely time consuming, especially for less experienced modellers or scientists aiming to use different ESMs as in the case of intercomparison projects. To assist researchers and modellers by reducing avoidable complexity, we developed the ESM-Tools software, which provides a standard way for downloading, configuring, compiling, running and monitoring different models on a variety of HPC systems. It should be noted that ESM-Tools is not a coupling software itself but a workflow and infrastructure management tool to provide access to increase usability of already existing components and coupled setups. As coupled ESMs are technically the more challenging tasks, we will focus on coupled setups, always implying that stand-alone models can benefit in the same way. With ESM-Tools, the user is only required to provide a short script consisting of only the experiment-specific definitions, while the software executes all the phases of a simulation in the correct order. The software, which is well documented and easy to install and use, currently supports four ocean models, three atmosphere models, two biogeochemistry models, an ice sheet model, an isostatic adjustment model, a hydrology model and a land-surface model. Compared to previous versions, ESM-Tools has lately been entirely recoded in a high-level programming language (Python) and provides researchers with an even more user-friendly interface for Earth system modelling. ESM-Tools was developed within the framework of the Advanced Earth System Model Capacity project, supported by the Helmholtz Association.

Item Type
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Helmholtz Cross Cutting Activity (2021-2027)
Publication Status
Eprint ID
DOI 10.5194/gmd-14-4051-2021

Cite as
Barbi, D. , Wieters, N. , Gierz, P. , Andrés-Martínez, M. , Ural, D. , Chegini, F. , Khosravi, S. and Cristini, L. (2021): ESM-Tools version 5.0: a modular infrastructure for stand-alone and coupled Earth system modelling (ESM) , Geoscientific Model Development, 14 (6), pp. 4051-4067 . doi: 10.5194/gmd-14-4051-2021

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