Articles | Volume 10, issue 12
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 Larour, Daniel Cheng, Gilberto Perez, Justin Quinn, Mathieu Morlighem, Bao Duong, Lan Nguyen, Kit Petrie, Silva Harounian, Daria Halkides, and Wayne Hayes

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.