Articles | Volume 10, issue 12
Geosci. Model Dev., 10, 4393–4403, 2017
Geosci. Model Dev., 10, 4393–4403, 2017

Development and technical paper 04 Dec 2017

Development and technical paper | 04 Dec 2017

A JavaScript API for the Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM) 4.11: towards an online interactive model for the cryosphere community

Eric Larour1, Daniel Cheng2, Gilberto Perez2, Justin Quinn2, Mathieu Morlighem3, Bao Duong4, Lan Nguyen5, Kit Petrie1, Silva Harounian6, Daria Halkides7, and Wayne Hayes2 Eric Larour et al.
  • 1Jet Propulsion Laboratory – California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Drive 300-323, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
  • 2Department of Information and Computer Sciences, University of California, Donald Bren Hall, Irvine, CA 92697, USA
  • 3Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Croul Hall, Irvine, CA 92697, USA
  • 4Monoprice, Inc., 11701 6th St., Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730, USA
  • 5Hart, Inc., 1515 E. Orangewood Ave., Anaheim, CA 92805, USA
  • 6Digitized Schematic Solutions, 40 W. Cochran St. Suite 212, Simi Valley, CA 93065, USA
  • 7Earth and Space Research, 2101 Fourth Ave., Suite 1310, Seattle, WA 98121, USA

Abstract. Earth system models (ESMs) are becoming increasingly complex, requiring extensive knowledge and experience to deploy and use in an efficient manner. They run on high-performance architectures that are significantly different from the everyday environments that scientists use to pre- and post-process results (i.e., MATLAB, Python). This results in models that are hard to use for non-specialists and are increasingly specific in their application. It also makes them relatively inaccessible to the wider science community, not to mention to the general public. Here, we present a new software/model paradigm that attempts to bridge the gap between the science community and the complexity of ESMs by developing a new JavaScript application program interface (API) for the Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM). The aforementioned API allows cryosphere scientists to run ISSM on the client side of a web page within the JavaScript environment. When combined with a web server running ISSM (using a Python API), it enables the serving of ISSM computations in an easy and straightforward way. The deep integration and similarities between all the APIs in ISSM (MATLAB, Python, and now JavaScript) significantly shortens and simplifies the turnaround of state-of-the-art science runs and their use by the larger community. We demonstrate our approach via a new Virtual Earth System Laboratory (VESL) website (, VESL(2017)).

Short summary
This work presents a new way of carrying out simulations using the C++ based Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM) within a web page. This allows for a new generation of websites that can rely on the entire code of a climate model, without compromising or simplifying the physics implemented in such a model. We believe this approach will enable better education/outreach websites as well as improve access to complex climate models without compromising their integrity.