1. Introduction

Part 1 of this guide explains the basic commands in the CIME Case Control System that are needed to get a model running.

1.1. Prerequisites

Part 1 of this guide assumes that CIME or a CIME-driven model and the necessary input files have been installed on the computer you are using. If that is not the case, see Porting CIME.

Other prerequisites:

  • Familiarity with basic climate modeling concepts.

  • Familiarity with UNIX command line terminals and the UNIX development environment.

  • A correct version of the Python interpreter.

CIME’s commands are Python scripts and require a correct version of the Python interpreter to be installed. The Python version must be greater than 2.7. Determine which version you have like this:

> python --version

Consult your local documentation if you need to update your python version.

1.2. Key Terms and concepts

The following key terms and concepts are ingrained in CIME and used frequently in this documentation. See the Glossary for a more complete list of terms.


In CIME, a coupled earth system model is made up of components that interact through a coupler and are all controlled by a driver.

In the current version of CIME, there are 7 physical components allowed. They are:

atmosphere, ocean, sea-ice, land surface, river, ice sheet, ocean waves

Components are also referred to as “models”. The choice of 7 is partly historical and partly determined by the physics of the Earth system: these 7 components occupy physically distinct domains in the Earth system and/or require different numerical grids for solving.

component types

For each of the 7 physical components (models), there can be three different implementations in a CIME-driven coupled model.

active: Solve a complex set of equations to describe the model’s behavior. Also called prognostic or full models. These can be full General Circulation Models. Multiple active models might be available (for example POP and MPAS-ocean to represent the global ocean) but only one ocean or atmosphere model at a time can be used in a component set.

data: For some climate problems, it is necessary to reduce feedbacks within the system by replacing an active model with a version that sends and receives the same variables to and from other models, but with the values read from files rather than computed from the equations. The values received are ignored. These active-model substitutes are called data models. CIME provides data models for each of the possible components. You could add your own data model implementation of a component but as for active models only one at a time can be used.

stub: For some configurations, no data model is needed, so CIME provides stub versions that simply occupy the required place in the driver and do not send or receive any data.

component set or compset: The particular combination of active, data and stub versions of the 7 components is referred to

as a component set or compset. The Case Control System allows one to define several possible compsets and configure and run them on supported platforms. See Component Sets for more information.

grid or model grid:

Each active model must solve its equations on a numerical grid. CIME allows models within the system to have different grids. The resulting set of all numerical grids is called the model grid or sometimes just the grid, where grid is a unique name that denotes a set of numerical grids. Sometimes the resolution also refers to a specific set of grids.

machine and compilers:

The machine is the computer you are using to run CIME and build and run the climate model. It could be a workstation or a national supercomputer. The exact name of machine is typically the UNIX hostname but it could be any string. A machine may have one more more versions of Fortran, C and C++ compilers that are needed to compile the model’s source code and CIME


To build and execute a CIME-enabled climate model, you have to make choices of compset, model grid, machine and compiler. The collection of these choices, and any additional customizations you may make, is called the case.


Any case that can be defined by the coupled model’s CIME configuration files and built with only basic commands in the CIME Case Control System is an “out-of-the-box” case. Since CIME and its configuration files are kept with the model source code and version-controlled together, its possible to match supported out-of-the-box cases with specific versions of the model source code, promoting reproducibility and provenance. An out-of-the-box case is also called a base case

1.3. CIME and your environment

Before using any CIME commands, set the CIME_MODEL environment variable. In bash, use export as shown and replace <model> with the appropriate text. Current possibilities are “e3sm” or “cesm.”

> export CIME_MODEL=<model>

There are a number of possible ways to set CIME variables. For variables that can be set in more than one way, the order of precedence is:

  • variable appears in a command line argument to a CIME command

  • variable is set as an environment variable

  • variable is set in $HOME/.cime/config as explained further here.

  • variable is set in a $CASEROOT xml file

1.4. Quick start

To see an example of how a case is created, configured, built and run with CIME, execute the following commands. (This assumes that CIME has been ported to your current machine).

> cd cime/scripts
> ./create_newcase --case mycase --compset X --res f19_g16
> cd mycase
> ./case.setup
> ./case.build
> ./case.submit

The output from each command is explained in the following sections.

After you submit the case, you can follow the progress of your run by monitoring the CaseStatus file.

> tail CaseStatus

Repeat the command until you see the message case.run success.

1.5. Discovering available cases with query_config

Your CIME-driven model has many more possible cases besides the simple one in the above Quick Start.

Use the utility query_config to see which out-of-the-box compsets, components, grids and machines are available for your model.

If CIME is downloaded in standalone mode, only standalone CIME compsets can be queried.

If CIME is part of a CIME-driven model, query_config will allow you to query all prognostic component compsets.

To see lists of available compsets, components, grids and machines, look at the help text:

> query_config --help

To see all available component sets, try:

> query_config --compsets all

Usage examples

To run query_config for compset information, follow this example, where drv is the component name:

> query_config --compsets drv

The output will be similar to this:

  Compset Short Name: Compset Long Name
S                    : 2000_SATM_SLND_SICE_SOCN_SROF_SGLC_SWAV_SESP
X                    : 2000_XATM_XLND_XICE_XOCN_XROF_XGLC_XWAV

Each model component specifies its own definitions of what can appear after the % modifier in the compset longname (for example, DOM in DOCN%DOM).

To see what supported modifiers are for DOCN, run query_config as in this example:

> query_config --component docn

The output will be similar to this:

DOCN naming conventions

    _DOCN%AQP1 : docn prescribed aquaplanet sst - option 1
   _DOCN%AQP10 : docn prescribed aquaplanet sst - option 10
    _DOCN%AQP2 : docn prescribed aquaplanet sst - option 2
    _DOCN%AQP3 : docn prescribed aquaplanet sst - option 3
    _DOCN%AQP4 : docn prescribed aquaplanet sst - option 4
    _DOCN%AQP5 : docn prescribed aquaplanet sst - option 5
    _DOCN%AQP6 : docn prescribed aquaplanet sst - option 6
    _DOCN%AQP7 : docn prescribed aquaplanet sst - option 7
    _DOCN%AQP8 : docn prescribed aquaplanet sst - option 8
    _DOCN%AQP9 : docn prescribed aquaplanet sst - option 9
     _DOCN%DOM : docn prescribed ocean mode
     _DOCN%IAF : docn interannual mode
    _DOCN%NULL : docn null mode
     _DOCN%SOM : docn slab ocean mode
  _DOCN%SOMAQP : docn aquaplanet slab ocean mode
  _DOCN%SST_AQUAP : docn aquaplanet mode:

For more details on how CIME determines the output for query_config, see Component Sets.