At the MPI-M efforts to understand Earth's changing climate are focused around the innovative use and development of comprehensive Earth system modeling. In so doing we build on the history of research within our institute, which started from the development of component models of the atmosphere and ocean, moved to pioneering studies of the coupled atmosphere-ocean system, and culminated in the development of the MPI-M Earth system models. However, increasing further the complexity of our models will not by itself provide answers to our guiding questions; instead, answers will arise from the richness and clarity of the concepts that our models help us create. For these purposes idealized modelling, designed to distill an idea or theory to its essence, plays an increasingly important role in our research, and guides the sometimes unorthodox use of our most complex models. And although our Earth System Models, are in the focus of most of our development effort, the flexibility provided through the development and use of component models, designed to represent a subset of Earth system processes with increased fidelity, is also important.

Jointly with the German weather service, the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology develops the ICON modelling system for a broad range of applications. Within this framework, MPI-M develops and maintains the ICON Earth system model (ICON-ESM) and the large eddy resolving model (ICON-LEM).


ICON-ESM is the new Earth System Model of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, based on the ICON component models ICON-A for the atmosphere, ICON-L for the land and ICON-O for the ocean. ICON-ESM includes the physical processes and biogeochemical extension for the carbon cycle. ICON will allow Earth System Modelling within the institute to better exploit very high performance computing architectures, and provide a basis for exchanging ideas with colleagues working on related problems in numerical weather prediction.  >>> ICON-ESM


ICON-LEM is the ICON configuration for large eddy simulations. ICON-LEM combines the dynamical core with a minimal set of parameterized processes compared to the strongly parameterized global ICON-A model. Practically ICON-LEM is used as a regional model for idealized or realistic boundary conditions.

ICON-LEM has been used successfully in the HD(CP)2 project for simulations at a resolution down to 150 m over a domain covering Germany.  >>> ICON-LEM


The traditional Max Planck Institute Earth system model, MPI-ESM, which consists of the component models ECHAM6 for the atmosphere, MPIOM for the ocean and JSBACH for the land, is the workhorse for many projects. Currently MPI-ESM is used for the contributions of MPI-M to the sixth phase of the coupled model intercomparison project, CMIP6.  >>> MPI-ESM

Process Models

Scientists at the institute also make use of a variety of process models.  In particular atmospheric phenomena, and land atmosphere interacts, are studied in more idealized settings using large-eddy simulation.  The institute has an unusual concentration of these models, as three of the five or six world-wide leading large-eddy simulation models have been developed and/or maintained by institute members.  The institute also is one of the only institutes worldwide to maintain the capacity to perform direct numerical simulation of multiphase flows in the atmosphere and ocean.  >>> Process Models