Domain, meteorology, and configuration

This section discusses:

  • Setting up the domain using WPS’s geogrid.exe tool.

  • Processing the meteorological initial and boundary conditions by downloading, running WPS’s ungrib.exe, and metgrid.exe.

  • Basic configuration of WRF-GC using the namelist.input.

  • Using WRF’s real.exe to prepare input before adding in chemical initial/boundary conditions.


The WRF Pre-Processor can be learned best from the WRF User’s Guide, as this is not specific to chemistry.

An overview of the workflow of the WRF Pre-Processor system (by Xu Feng):


The data in “A” is described in WRF Pre-Processor Geographical Data. The data in “B” is described below in Downloading meteorological data.

Setting up the domain using GEOGRID

Configuration of the WPS is done in namelist.wps file under the WPS directory.

The first step is to describe your simulation domain. Example entries for the namelist.wps file’s &share and &geogrid sections are below:

 wrf_core = 'ARW',
 max_dom = 1,
 start_date = '2016-06-27_00:00:00',
 end_date   = '2016-06-29_00:00:00',
 interval_seconds = 21600
 io_form_geogrid = 2,
 debug_level = 1,

 parent_id         =   1,
 parent_grid_ratio =   1,
 i_parent_start    =   1,
 j_parent_start    =   1,
 e_we = 245,
 e_sn = 181,

 geog_data_res = 'default', 'default',
 dx        = 27000,
 dy        = 27000,
 map_proj  = 'mercator',
 ref_lat   = 27,
 ref_lon   = 105,
 truelat1  = 27.0,
 stand_lon = 105,
 geog_data_path = '/n/seasasfs02/hplin/geog'

The configuration options you need to change with a brief description are listed below. This will get you up and running fast, but we recommend checking out the WPS user’s guide.

  • max_dom: Number of domains. 1 = single domain, up to 8 are supported when working with nested domains. We do not discuss multiple domains here for simplicity.

  • start_date (per-domain): Start date of simulation

  • end_date (per-domain): End date of simulation

  • e_we and e_sn: Dimensions of the grid in x/y dimensions.

  • dx and dy: Grid distance in the x/y dimensions where the map scale factor is 1. In meters when map_proj = 'mercator', in degrees when map_proj = 'lat-lon'.

  • map_proj: Map projection. Only mercator and lat-lon (unrotated regular latitude-longitude) are supported currently in WRF-GC.

  • ref_lat, ref_lon, truelat1, stand_lon etc. are grid location parameters (where your regional grid is located in). Refer to the WRF User’s Guide.

  • geog_data_path: Path to the static WPS input data you downloaded in the previous steps.

Once namelist.wps is configured, you can run GEOGRID:


This will generate (1 domain) and other files for other domains if you are using multiple domains.

Preview the generated grid using the ncl script (requires NCL installed):

ncl util/plotgrids_new.ncl

An example is shown below:


Downloading meteorological data

Various types of meteorology can be used to drive WRF. We generally use NCEP FNL (Reanalysis) or GFS (Forecasts using GFS), but others may also be available. Refer to the WRF User’s Guide.

Setting up Vtable

Depending on the meteorological data, the appropriate Vtable needs to be linked so the UNGRIB utility can find it.

If you are using NCEP FNL or GFS data, link the Vtable.GFS into WPS directory:

ln -s ungrib/Variable_Tables/Vtable.GFS Vtable


Configure UNGRIB and METGRID in namelist.wps. These should be mostly unchanged:

        out_format = 'WPS',
        prefix = 'FILE',

        fg_name = 'FILE',
        io_form_metgrid = 2,

Link GRIB files - ./link_grib.csh gfs* (replace gfs* pointing to the meteorological input files you downloaded in the previous step)

Then run ./ungrib.exe, then ./metgrid.exe. You should now have meteorology data named met_em.d… in the WPS directory.

Configuring WRF-GC - namelist.input

Almost all WRF-GC configuration is performed inside namelist.input. This namelist, located in the WRF run directory, controls most aspects of the simulation.


Not all options in WRF for dynamics and physics are supported in WRF-GC! This is because to couple WRF to GEOS-Chem, the internal quantities need to be translated to GEOS-Chem’s meteorology format (based on GEOS-FP).

The list of supported schemes is available in Lin et al., 2020:


We do not discuss WRF configuration options in detail here and invite you to refer to the WRF User’s Guide. The basic options to change in namelist.input are:


  • Configure the length of your run in run_days/hours/minutes/seconds, start_year/month/day/hour/minute/second, etc.

  • Configure output frequency. Use history_interval (in minutes). e.g., hourly output - history_interval = 60.

  • Configure frames per output netCDF file. e.g., frames_per_outfile = 2 with history_interval = 60 means 2 hours will be written per file.

  • Restarts. If this is a restart run (running from existing wrfrst_d<domain>_<date> file), set restart = .true.. By default should be set to .false..

  • Write out restart files. Set restart_interval (in minutes).


Configure according to your namelist.wps.

If running nested domains and having complications getting the model to run successfully, you can turn off two-way nesting which passes information from the higher-resolution nests to the lower-resolution parent domains, using feedback = 0. Otherwise, use feedback = 1.


  • Microphysics scheme. (mp_physics): We recommend the Morrison Double-Moment scheme (mp_physics = 10).

  • Cumulus parameterization scheme. (cu_physics): We recommend New-Tiedke scheme (cu_physics = 16).

  • Prognostic aerosol information. For progn setting, see “Aerosol-Cloud Interaction” in the &chem section below.


Important advection options. It is very important to have advection setups chosen as:

chem_adv_opt = 2,
moist_adv_opt = 2,
scalar_adv_opt = 2,
tke_adv_opt = 2,
diff_6th_opt = 0

This is following the guidance in the WRF-Chem User’s Guide, which writes that “The above options should always be used when running chemistry simulations. The WRF advection scheme has the tendency to overshoot and produce locally unrealistically low values (referred to at times as digging holes) if those options are not turned on. This digging is stronger with stronger gradients like those found where there are high emission rates”.


Configuration of chemistry is within the &chem section.

For WRF-GC chemistry, set chem_opt = 233. Set chemdt = 10 for 27km and resolution and scale down for higher resolutions, including for nested domains.

You can control individual processes in GEOS-Chem using:

  • Convection: gc_do_convection

  • Emissions: gc_do_hemco

  • Turbulence / Boundary layer mixing: gc_do_pblmix

  • Chemistry: gc_do_chemistry

  • Dry deposition: gc_do_drydep

  • Wet deposition: gc_do_wetdep.

By setting these switches to 0 (off) or 1 (on).

If you have initial/boundary conditions, set chem_in_opt = 1 for each domain and have_bcs_chem = .true. for domain 1, .false. otherwise.

To configure some simple GEOS-Chem diagnostics, add options to &chem following the guide in Additional diagnostics.

To enable aerosol-radiation interactions or aerosol-cloud interactions, use:

  • Aerosol-radiation interactions: aer_ra_feedback = 1

  • Aerosol-cloud interactions: aer_cu_feedback = 1. Also set progn = 1 in &physics section.

If you have initial and boundary conditions: (you should), use:

  • have_bcs_chem = .true. (for nested-domains, set .true. for the first domain and .false. for others)

  • chem_in_opt = 1 for all domains.

Configuring WRF-GC - input.geos (or geoschem_config.yml)

GEOS-Chem version 12 and 13:

Most input.geos options known by GEOS-Chem users are not configured in input.geos in WRF-GC, and are instead controlled by namelist.input. Only two exceptions: the path to CHEM_INPUTS needs to be specified in:

Root data directory     : /n/holyscratch01/external_repos/GEOS-CHEM/gcgrid/data/ExtData/


FAST-JX directory       : /n/holyscratch01/external_repos/GEOS-CHEM/gcgrid/data/ExtData/CHEM_INPUTS/FAST_JX/v2021-10/

GEOS-Chem version 14 and above:

Most geoschem_config.yml options are controlled by namelist.input, except the file input paths:

root_data_dir: /n/holyscratch01/external_repos/GEOS-CHEM/gcgrid/data/ExtData
chem_inputs_dir: /n/holyscratch01/external_repos/GEOS-CHEM/gcgrid/data/ExtData/CHEM_INPUTS/


  input_dir: /n/holyscratch01/external_repos/GEOS-CHEM/gcgrid/data/ExtData/CHEM_INPUTS/FAST_JX/v2021-10/

and the Complex SOA option, which can be enabled and the Complex SOA species (TSOAx, ASOAx, …) need to be added to the advected species list.

Most other options in ``input.geos`` (or ``geoschem_config.yml``) for WRF-GC are ignored.

Configuring WRF-GC - emissions in HEMCO_Config.rc

Configuration of HEMCO is exactly the same as the GEOS-Chem model. Remember to update the HEMCO data path in this configuration file:

ROOT:                        /n/holyscratch01/external_repos/GEOS-CHEM/gcgrid/data/ExtData/HEMCO


A reminder about input.geos, HEMCO_Config.rc, and namelist.input configuration files - these files are replaced every time the WRF model is recompiled (when ./compile em_real is ran). Please remember to back up your configuration files!

Starting in WRF-GC version 3.0, geoschem_config.yml and HEMCO_Config.rc are no longer replaced at each recompile. However, namelist.input is still replaced by WRF.

Running real.exe

After configuring, run real.exe. This is a memory and compute intensive operation - if you are on a cluster, you will need to submit a batch job like you would do when running other models. Otherwise, run

mpirun -np 32 ./real.exe

Where “32” would be the number of cores. The output can be watched by tail -f rsl.out.0000 and any errors would be in rsl.error.0000.

After running real.exe, the initial condition file wrfinput_d<domain> and boundary condition file(s) wrfbdy_d<domain> are generated.