Documentation for PISM, a parallel Ice Sheet Model

NEWS: PhD scholarship at Victoria University Wellington: Antarctic modelling

The Parallel Ice Sheet Model pism0.7 is an open source, parallel, high-resolution ice sheet model. Features:

  • hybrid shallow stress balance
  • marine ice sheet physics
  • polythermal energy conservation
  • subglacial hydrology and till model
  • extensible coupling to atmospheric and ocean models
  • inversion toolbox in Python
  • verification and validation tools
  • complete documentation for users and developers
  • uses MPI and PETSc for parallel simulations
  • reads and writes CF-compliant NetCDF

PISM Application of the Month

August 2015


Click the image to go to the Nature Climate Change page.

Consistent evidence of increasing Antarctic accumulation with warming
investigator: K. Frieler and others
journal: Nature Climate Change

The Antarctic ice sheet (AIS) will likely experience higher snow accumulation rates in a warmer climate because warmer air has a higher moisture-holding capacity. This paper quantifies the effect based on ice-core data and paleo-climate simulations, which together show a consistent continental-scale accumulation increase of 5 percent per degree Kelvin. (Note ice-core data and GCM-type modelling results agree for the last deglaciation.) However, some of the mass gain of the AIS is offset by dynamical losses induced by accumulation. This is where PISM plays a supporting role in the paper. PISM results were used to generate a response function allowing projections of sea-level fall in terms of continental-scale accumulation changes. In PISM the accumulation changes can and do compete with changes in surface melting and with dynamical losses induced by mechanisms like ocean interaction and sliding.

2015/08/15 14:34 · Ed Bueler

Latest News

PhD position at ETH Zurich in paleo-ice sheet modelling

See the official position announcement here.

We are looking for a candidate who is interested in taking part in the research project “Modelling the ice flow in the western Alps during the last glacial cycle” which is a joint initiative between ETH Zurich and the University of Bern (Prof. Christoph Raible and Dr. Juan Jose Gomez-Navarro). The objective is to better understand the chronology of the last glaciation over the Alps via a modelling approach. The core of this doctoral research will be to model the ice flow and the glacial extent in the western Alps during the last glacial cycle. For that purpose, the PhD student will set up and run the Parallel Ice Sheet Model (PISM) on the clusters of the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre. The crucial step in setting up in PISM will be to include high-resolution climate simulation results, which will be conducted at the University of Bern. The combination of the two state-of-the-art models (ice flow and climate) will give a new insight of the ice flow field prevailing in the western Alpine region during some periods of interest like the last glacial maximum (22000 BP) and an earlier period (65000 BP). The final goal of the PhD will be to compare the new model results to the geomorphological evidence left on the Swiss landscape during the last glacial cycle (e.g. moraines, erratic boulders) in collaboration with quaternary geologists of EHT Zurich. The PhD student will be supervised by Dr. Guillaume Jouvet and Prof. Martin Funk.

The ideal candidate has a master degree either in geophysics, earth sciences, physics, applied mathematics, computer science, or a related field, and a keen interest in modelling of geophysical processes. Previous experience in computer modelling and scientific programming languages (C/C++, Python, Matlab) is an asset. Good writing and communication skills as well as the motivation to fruitfully collaborate within an interdisciplinary framework are essential, in particular with our climate modelling partners at the University of Bern.

For additional information please refer to or contact Dr. Guillaume Jouvet, (no applications).

2015/10/13 10:03 · Ed Bueler

What would happen in Antarctica if all fossil fuels are burned?

A new open-access paper by Ricarda Winkelmann and others uses PISM to address an admittedly extreme question: If all currently-attainable fossil fuel resources are converted to atmospheric greenhouse gases, what happens to the Antarctic Ice Sheet?

This paper's model-based answer is that serious destruction of the ice sheet occurs in the first millenium, at about 3 m sea level rise per century. Such a large mass loss rate tails off in the two following millenia. The large losses come from a combination of marine-ice-sheet instability and surface elevation versus mass balance feedback, both of which are modeled effects in PISM. However, in the first century of the simulations there are the same relatively-modest AIS mass changes as seen in other recent modeling work, because dynamic losses driven by increasing ocean temperatures are partly offset by increasing snowfall.

Here is a quick methods summary, with more detail found in the paper and its supplementary material: Emission scenarios, CO2 concentrations, and global mean temperature pathways are combined in an Earth system model and then downscaled to surface and ocean temperature anomalies for Antarctica. These regional warming scenarios are then used to force PISM, in particular using its positive-degree-day scheme to model surface melt and a three-equation model for subshelf melting.

US National Public Radio featured the paper, including comments by co-author Ken Caldeira, on the 11 September edition of All Things Considered, as did the New York Times.

2015/09/12 10:35 · Ed Bueler

Postdoc for ESM/PISM modeler (MPI-M Hamburg)

This is a re-posting of the CRYOLIST announcement from Uwe Mikolajewicz

The Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M) is a multidisciplinary center for climate and Earth system research located in Hamburg, Germany. MPI-M contributes to the BMBF project “From the Last Interglacial to the Anthropocene: Modeling a Complete Glacial Cycle” (PalMod), which aims at simulating the climate from the peak of the last interglacial up to the present using comprehensive Earth System Models.

With respect to this research project, we have an open position for a

Postdoctoral Scientist (m/f, Ref. MPIM-W009)

The successful candidate will be part of a local team performing and analyzing transient simulations from the last Glacial to the Holocene with an interactively coupled atmosphere-ocean-ice sheet model. Additionally the candidate will contribute to the development of this model. The model system will consist of the MPI-Earth system model and the ice sheet model PISM.

  • A PhD in oceanography/meteorology/physics or a related science.
  • Experience in performing and analyzing experiments with a comprehensive earth system model or ice sheet model;
  • Strong motivation and ability to carry out model development in an interdisciplinary and international environment;
  • Ability and desire to work in a closely cooperating team;
  • Excellent communication skills and publication record;
  • Familiarity with coding and running computer models, very good programming skills in FORTRAN (on a Linux platform) and scripting;
  • Knowledge of the MPI-Earth system model or the ice sheet model PISM would be of advantage.

more details

Additional PhD Fellowships

For information on PhD Fellowships in Earth System Modeling at MPI-M, see

2015/08/17 08:40 · Ed Bueler

PISM version 0.7.1 and PETSc 3.6.1

PISM v0.7.1 was released 30 June 2015. In addition to bug fixes this version adds support for PETSc 3.6.1, which was released 22 July 2015.

PETSc 3.6.0 is not supported due to a bug in PETSc. Please use PETSc 3.5.4 or >= 3.6.1 with PISM.

2015/06/30 09:45 · Constantine Khroulev

PISM team

PISM is jointly developed at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). For more about the team see the UAF Developers and PIK Developers pages.

UAF developers, who are in the Glaciers Group at the GI, are supported by NASA's Modeling, Analysis, and Prediction and Cryospheric Sciences Programs (grants NAG5-11371, NNX09AJ38C, NNX13AM16G, NNX13AK27G) and by the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center.

home.txt · Last modified: 2015/11/24 18:33 by Ed Bueler
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