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Virtual Earth System Laboratory

Welcome to the Virtual Earth System Laboratory (VESL). Here, the Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM) team hosts simulations related to glaciers, ice sheets, sea level, and solid earth. The technology behind the lab is described in a GMD paper, see the following JPL news release for more info.

Our earth science simulations fall into one or more categories, which can be reached via the links below.

Welcome to the Virtual Earth System Laboratory! On this site, a sophisticated computer model called the Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM) is being made available to the public, allowing real-time simulations of the effects of environmental change on glaciers, ice sheets, sea level, and the geology of Earth.

Try out the simulations — and change their properties — using these links:

What's New

Check out our featured simulations and news

Glaciers Glaciers

Simulations of glacier flow and sensitivity to climate
Simulate the flow of glaciers into oceans and their response to climate change

Model the evolution of glaciers in Alaska, Patagonia and the Himalayan regions in response to variations in surface temperature, snow precipitation, and other factors related to climate change.
Glaciers in Alaska, Patagonia, and the Himalayas react to your settings for temperature, snowfall, and other factors.

Preview of  simulation
Columbia Glacier
Columbia Glacier
Model the evolution of Columbia glacier, Alaska. Based on work carried out by Alex Gardner and Eric Larour.
See the effects of precipitation and temperature changes on the Alaskan glacier. The simulation is based on work by research scientists Alex Gardner and Eric Larour.
Preview of  simulation
Haig Glacier
Haig Glacier
Understand the evolution of Haig glacier, Canada over 30 years. Based on work carried out by Surendra Adhikari.
Track the evolution of this Canadian glacier over 30 years. It's based on work by research scientist Surendra Adhikari.

Ice Sheets Ice Sheets

Simulations of ice sheet flow and sensitivity to climate and forcings
Simulate the flow of ice sheets across underlying surfaces and their sensitivity to changes in climate

Model the evolution of ice sheets such as Greenland and Antarctica. Understand the factors that control their evolution and and how they will contribute to sea level rise in the coming decades/centuries. This includes basal friction at the ice/bed interface, snow precipitation, temperature, etc.
Use the model to force changes in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and trace their contributions to sea level rise over decades and centuries. The changeable factors include snowfall, temperature, and friction between ice and Earth.

Preview of  simulation
Greenland Basal Friction
Greenland Ice Sheet
This simulation of Greenland is the result of work carried out by the ISSM team for the SeaRISE experiments.
This simulation is based on the ISSM team's work on an assessment of ice sheet contributions to sea level rise, known as Sea-level Response to Ice Sheet Evolution (SeaRISE).

Sea Level Sea Level

Simulations of sea-level rise and contribution from the cryosphere
Simulate sea-level rise and how it is affected by changes in Earth's icy regions

Model the evolution of sea level over the entire Earth, and understand the contribution of glaciers and polar ice caps to its rise or decline in a changing climate.
Alter sea levels across planet Earth, and watch them rise or fall in response to changing glaciers and polar ice caps — and a changing climate.

Preview of  simulation
Coastline Retreat From Sea-Level Rise
Sea Level: Amount and Extent of Ocean Water
This model quantifies the impact of Antarctica and Greenland melt on the coastlines of several states in the US assuming the so-called bath-tub model (sea level is evenly distributed over the entire oceans as though Earth is a nongravitating, nonrotating, rigid planet).
Melting ice in Antarctica and Greenland can change the mass and volume of ocean water, affecting sea levels on U.S. coastlines.
Preview of  simulation
Gradient Fingerprint Mapping
Sea Level "Fingerprints"
Gradient fingerprint mapping of local sea level with respect to ice thickness changes over all glaciated areas of the world.
Melting ice can change the gravitational profile of Earth's surface, with counter-intuitive effects: lower sea levels close to the melting mass, and higher levels farther away.
Preview of  simulation
Global Relative Sea-Level Rise
Local Sea Level
This model computes local sea level rise (or decrease) using GRACE observations of melt in Greenland and Antarctica, for present-day.
Observations of melting ice from NASA's twin GRACE satellites, which measured gravitational changes, were used in this simulation of local variations in sea level.
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Slowdown in Antarctic Mass Loss from Solid Earth and Sea-Level Feedbacks
Slowdown in Antarctica Contribution to Sea Level because of Ground Elastic Rebound
Results of a new study on negative feedbacks from Solid Earth and Sea-Level processes on grounding line retreat in Antarctica, along with corresponding impacts on the contribution of Thwaites Glacier to future sea-level rise.
Explore how Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica will thin in the future and contribute to sea-level rise around the world. Understand how elastic rebound of the bedrock underneath this glacier is slowing it down.
Preview of  simulation
Polar Motion
Polar Motion
Model the observed polar motion and estimated contribution from various factors for a time series.
Model the observed polar motion and estimated contribution from various factors for a time series.

Solid Earth Deep Earth: Our Planet's Interior

Simulations of processes undergone by Earth's lithosphere and mantle
Simulate alterations in Earth's crust, and the underlying rock layer known as the mantle

Here you will find simulations related to Earth's interior. This includes models of geothermal heat flux and their impact on the thermal profile of polar ice sheets, models of mantle plumes under the ice, models of Glacio-Isostatic Rebound, and other models related to processes undergone by the earth lithosphere and mantle.

Preview of  simulation
Glacial Isostatic Adjustment
Post-Glacial Rebound
Present-day GIA trends (gravity, uplift and geoid). Statistics (expectation and standard deviation) were derived from a Bayesian ensemble of 100,000 models constrained by a global data set of relative sea level and GPS data.
Earth's crust is rebounding slowly, over thousands of years, from the heavy burden of the last ice age. This simulation allows mapping of these trends across Earth's surface with the help of planet-wide GPS and sea level data, along with an ensemble of 100,000 computer models.
Preview of  simulation
Greenland Geothermal Sensitivity
Greenland's Response to Internal Heat
This simulation of Greenland explores the sensitivity of melt-rate and temperature at the ice/bed interface to geothermal heat flux distribution.
Explore the way Greenland's ice responds to temperature changes in the rock upon which it rests, caused by heat from Earth's interior.