A Python implementation of the Neelin-Zeng Quasi-Equilibrium Tropical Circulation Model and implications for how modeling science is done

Date and Time: 
2012 Wednesday, February 22nd
ML-132 Main Seminar
Johnny Wei-Bing Lin


Historically, climate models have been developed incrementally and in compiled languages like Fortran. While the use of legacy compiled languages results in fast, time-tested code, the resulting model is limited in its modularity and cannot take advantage of functionality available with modern computer languages. Here we describe an effort at using the open-source, object-oriented language Python to create more flexible climate models: the package qtcm, a Python implementation of the intermediate-level Neelin-Zeng Quasi-Equilibrium Tropical Circulation model (QTCM1) of the atmosphere. The qtcm package retains the core numerics of QTCM1, written in Fortran to optimize model performance, but uses Python structures and utilities to wrap the QTCM1 Fortran routines and manage model execution. The resulting "mixed language" modeling package allows order and choice of subroutine execution to be altered at run time and model analysis and visualization to be integrated in interactively with model execution at run time. This flexibility facilitates more complex scientific analysis using less complex code than would be possible using traditional languages alone and provides tools to transform the traditional "formulate hypothesis → write and test code → run model → analyze results" sequence into a feedback loop that can be executed automatically by the computer.

Speaker Description: 

Johnny Lin graduated from Stanford University with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and an M.S. in Civil Engineering-Water Resources. After working as an environmental engineer, he returned to school and received his Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences from UCLA, as a student of David Neelin.  His atmospheric science research is focused on stochastic convective parameterizations, ice-atmosphere interactions in the Arctic, and simple frameworks for modularizing climate models.

He is also working on a book on environmental ethics and helps coordinate the PyAOS mailing list and blog (pyaos.johnny-lin.com), an effort at building up the atmospheric and oceanic sciences Python community.  Currently, he is a Professor of Physics at North Park University in Chicago.

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