Improving reproducibility and sustainability for GLOMAP

Posted by s.aragon on 17 February 2017 - 10:29am

Weather forecastingBy Malcolm Illingworth, Software Consultant, Software Sustainability Institute

The Software Sustainability Institute have been working with the Institute of Climate and Atmospheric Science (ICAS) at the University of Leeds, to help improve the sustainability of their GLOMAP software suite. Kirsty Pringle of ICAS applied for consultancy from the Institute via the Open Call.

One of the biggest challenges in our ability to understand and predict climate change is learning about the role played by tiny particles, such as dust or soot. These aerosol particles are known to influence our climate in complex ways, but how this interaction works is an open area of research.

The Institute of Climate and Atmospheric Science (ICAS) at the University of Leeds  seeks to improve our understanding of how these aerosol particles affect our climate. Their research uses both computer-based climate models and uncertainty analysis to quantify the role that natural aerosols play in climate change. As part of this research, ICAS have developed the GLOMAP model, a flexible aerosol microphysics model. GLOMAP is, in turn, built into a number of host models which allow a wide range of scientific problems to be tackled. These include: the UKCA chemistry aerosol climate model , a community model developed collaboratively by the UK Met Office and the Universities of Leeds, Cambridge, and Oxford; TOMCAT  global chemical transport model; and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Integrated Forecasting System. GLOMAP development is funded via NERC .

GLOMAP has already contributed to a number of scientific discoveries, including the findings that soot emitted from fossil fuel and biofuel combustion produces a large fraction of the world's cloud drops, thereby cooling the climate and possibly cancelling out the warming effect of the black carbon in the particles, and that sulphur emissions from volcanoes have a surprisingly large effect on our climate. The GLOMAP model is ~30,000 lines of Fortran code. GLOMAP is complemented by data visualisation code in the data analysis language, IDL, and Python. GLOMAP is dependent on a large number of model variables, data inputs, scripts and end-user FORTRAN routines.

The Software Sustainability Institute performed an analysis of the existing development processes. A report was produced identifying the set of research artefacts and providing recommendations on how these artefacts might be maintained under full version control, and how the development process might be modified to accommodate a greater use of version control repositories. This was suggested to allow a user to easily track the influence of changes in their model and input data on the simulation output, and a more reliable reproducibility of published results. To conclude the collaboration with the Software Sustainability Institute, a face-to-face meeting was held at ICAS to discuss the findings of the report and how it might be applied.

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