Documentation for PISM, a parallel Ice Sheet Model

NEWS: The Antarctic contribution to meltwater pulse 1A.

The Parallel Ice Sheet Model pism0.6 is an open source, parallel, high-resolution ice sheet model. Features:

  • hierarchy of available stress balances
  • marine ice sheet physics, dynamic calving fronts
  • polythermal, enthalpy-based conservation of energy scheme
  • 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

July 2014

Click the image to go to The Cryosphere journal page.

The effect of climate forcing on numerical simulations of the Cordilleran ice sheet at the Last Glacial Maximum
investigators: J. Seguinot, C. Khroulev, I. Rogozhina, A. P. Stroeven, and Q. Zhang
journal: The Cryosphere

An ensemble of numerical simulations of the Cordilleran ice sheet in western North America during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) using the Parallel Ice Sheet Model. Temperature offsets to the present-day climatologies are applied from five different data sets. Surface mass balance is computed from precipitation and temperature using a positive degree-day model. We assess the model against a geomorphological reconstruction of the ice margin at the LGM. Modelled ice sheet outlines and volumes appear highly sensitive to the choice of climate forcing. For three of the four reanalysis data sets used, differences in precipitation are the major source for discrepancies between model results. Part of the mismatch is due to unresolved orographic precipitation effects caused by the coarse resolution of reanalysis data.

2014/06/30 22:10 · Ed Bueler

Latest News

Ice plug prevents irreversible discharge from East Antarctica

In a just-published Nature Climate Change article, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research authors Matthias Mengel and Anders Levermann use PISM to define the “ice-plug” which, if removed from the coastal ice in the Wilkes Basin of East Antarctica, would initiate irreversible retreat of the grounded ice in that basin. The modeled retreats, which occur on a time scale of a few thousand years, generate 3–4 m of sea level rise from the region surrounding the basin. Thus this basin is a potential “tipping-point” ice sheet configuration, in additional to the better-known West Antarctica configurations.

For the PISM user this paper is an indication of its ability to model an ice sheet region (hashed in figure) at high resolution across a range of ice dynamics parameters and climate forcing choices.

This Science Daily news item quotes the authors about this work.

2014/05/05 11:35 · Ed Bueler

PISM stable0.6 is out

See the stable version page to check out a copy of the PISM stable0.6 source code. If you have already checked out the prerelease version, just do git pull and then make install in your build directory. Send email to for help with any version of PISM.

Changes since stable0.5 include

Basal strength and basal hydrology

Click here to see the list

Marine ice sheet modeling

Click here to see the list

Climate inputs and ocean inputs

Click here to see the list

Inverse modeling tools are a part of this release

Please see the PISM's Python Documentation.

Energy and mass model improvements

Click here to see the list

Improved User's Manual examples

Click here to see the list


Click here to see the list

Under the hood

Click here to see the list

2014/02/13 18:18 · Constantine Khroulev

PISM team

PISM is jointly developed at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). 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: 2014/10/08 19:27 by Ed Bueler
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