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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 5, issue 1 | Copyright
Earth Surf. Dynam., 5, 21-46, 2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 16 Jan 2017

Research article | 16 Jan 2017

Creative computing with Landlab: an open-source toolkit for building, coupling, and exploring two-dimensional numerical models of Earth-surface dynamics

Daniel E. J. Hobley1,2,3, Jordan M. Adams4, Sai Siddhartha Nudurupati5, Eric W. H. Hutton6, Nicole M. Gasparini4, Erkan Istanbulluoglu5, and Gregory E. Tucker1,2 Daniel E. J. Hobley et al.
  • 1Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
  • 2Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
  • 3School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
  • 4Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Tulane University, New Orleans, USA
  • 5Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, USA
  • 6Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System (CSDMS), University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Abstract. The ability to model surface processes and to couple them to both subsurface and atmospheric regimes has proven invaluable to research in the Earth and planetary sciences. However, creating a new model typically demands a very large investment of time, and modifying an existing model to address a new problem typically means the new work is constrained to its detriment by model adaptations for a different problem. Landlab is an open-source software framework explicitly designed to accelerate the development of new process models by providing (1) a set of tools and existing grid structures – including both regular and irregular grids – to make it faster and easier to develop new process components, or numerical implementations of physical processes; (2) a suite of stable, modular, and interoperable process components that can be combined to create an integrated model; and (3) a set of tools for data input, output, manipulation, and visualization. A set of example models built with these components is also provided. Landlab's structure makes it ideal not only for fully developed modelling applications but also for model prototyping and classroom use. Because of its modular nature, it can also act as a platform for model intercomparison and epistemic uncertainty and sensitivity analyses. Landlab exposes a standardized model interoperability interface, and is able to couple to third-party models and software. Landlab also offers tools to allow the creation of cellular automata, and allows native coupling of such models to more traditional continuous differential equation-based modules. We illustrate the principles of component coupling in Landlab using a model of landform evolution, a cellular ecohydrologic model, and a flood-wave routing model.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Many geoscientists use computer models to understand changes in the Earth's system. However, typically each scientist will build their own model from scratch. This paper describes Landlab, a new piece of open-source software designed to simplify creation and use of models of the Earth's surface. It provides off-the-shelf tools to work with models more efficiently, with less duplication of effort. The paper explains and justifies how Landlab works, and describes some models built with it.
Many geoscientists use computer models to understand changes in the Earth's system. However,...