Frequently Asked Questions

Isn’t Python too slow for Earth System Models?

Not in general. Most model run time is spent within code such as the dynamical core, radiation parameterization, and other physics parameterizations. These components can be written in your favorite compiled language like Fortran or C, and then run from within Python. For new projects where you’re writing a component from scratch, we recommend Cython, as it allows you to write typed Python code which gets converted into C code and then compiled. Sympl is designed so that only overhead tasks need to be written in Python.

If 90% of a model’s run time is spent within this computationally intensive, compiled code, and the other 10% is spent in overhead code, then that overhead code taking 3x as long to run would only increase the model’s run time by 1/5th.

But the run time of a model isn’t the only important aspect, you also have to consider time spent programming a model. Poorly designed and documented code can cost weeks of researcher time. It can also take a long time to perform tasks that Sympl makes easy, like porting a component from one model to another. Time is also saved when others have to read and understand your model code.

In short, the more your work involves configuring and developing models, the more time you will save, at the cost of slightly slower model runs. But in the end, what is the cost of your sanity?

What calendar is my model using?

Hopefully the section on Choice of Datetime can clear this up.