BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Efficient Earth System Model for Analysis of Energy, Water, and Land Resources and Dynamics
Published: July 10, 2018
Posted: December 31, 2018

Improved MIT Earth System Model an effective tool for analyzing climate risk to energy, water and land resources.

The Science
The future of the Earth’s energy, water and land resources will depend, in part, on how the climate will change in coming decades. To generate meaningful projections of global climate change, one must take into account two major sources of uncertainty—first, in the level of external forcings to the climate system; and second, in the magnitude of the climate system’s response to those forcings. The MIT Earth System Model (MESM) provides the flexibility and computational speed required to analyze/account for climate system uncertainty while also representing the detailed physics, chemistry and biology that’s typical of more computationally intensive Earth system models—all at significantly less cost. 

The Impact
The computational efficiency of this model allows researchers to run large ensembles of simulations for robust uncertainty quantification within a short time frame. The MESM thus provides an effective tool for modeling the climate system and quantifying uncertainty of its response to external forcings. MESM simulations can be used as a basis for climate risk assessment to energy, water and land resources.

Recently upgraded, the MESM consists of three main components—land, ocean and atmosphere—and represents the processes that shape each component’s evolution and the interactions among these components, essentially serving as an Earth simulator. Despite simplifications made in the model to make it faster and cheaper to run, such as a zonally averaged atmospheric sub-model, the MESM shows generally comparable results to those of more complex models. Comparing the performance of the MESM with that of more computationally intensive Earth system models, researchers at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change and collaborating institutions show that the MESM effectively simulates changes in the observed climate system since the mid-19th century as well as the main features of the present-day climate system. In simulations of the impact of varying levels of external forcings on the climate system, the MESM’s results also compare favorably with those produced by more computationally intensive models.

BER PM Contact
Bob Vallario

PI Contact
Andrei Sokolov
MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science under the grant DE-FG02-94ER61937 and other government, industry and foundation sponsors of the MIT Joint Program.

Sokolov, A., D. Kicklighter, C.A. Schlosser, C. Wang, E. Monier, B. Brown-Steiner, R. Prinn, C. Forest, X. Gao, A. Libardoni and S. Eastham. “Description and Evaluation of the MIT Earth System Model (MESM).” AGU Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems  10, 1759-1789 (2018). [DOI:10.1029/2018MS001277]

Related Links
MIT Earth System Model


Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling
  • Research Area: Multisector Dynamics (formerly Integrated Assessment)

Division: SC-33.1 Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Mar 23, 2021
Molecular Connections from Plants to Fungi to Ants
Lipids transfer energy and serve as an inter-kingdom communication tool in leaf-cutter ants&rsqu [more...]

Mar 19, 2021
Microbes Use Ancient Metabolism to Cycle Phosphorus
Microbial cycling of phosphorus through reduction-oxidation reactions is older and more widespre [more...]

Feb 22, 2021
Warming Soil Means Stronger Microbe Networks
Soil warming leads to more complex, larger, and more connected networks of microbes in those soi [more...]

Jan 27, 2021
Labeling the Thale Cress Metabolites
New data pipeline identifies metabolites following heavy isotope labeling.

Analysis [more...]

Aug 31, 2020
Novel Bacterial Clade Reveals Origin of Form I Rubisco

  • All plant biomass is sourced from the carbon-fixing enzyme Rub [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)