The Planetary Weather Research and Forecasting (planetWRF) Model

The Planetary Weather Research and Forecasting model (planetWRF) is an open-source general purpose numerical model for planetary atmospheres research. The planetary model is based on the terrestrial Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The original planetWRF model (V3.0.1.2) description paper describes a version of planetWRF based on NCAR WRFV3.0.1. The current planetWRF source code (V3.3.1) is based on NCAR WRFV3.3.1. The heritage planetWRFV3.0.1.2 is also available. The planetWRF system is now also the basis of a Data Assimilation system that can be downloaded at

WRF is a highly modular and written to take advantage of modern, high-speed, massively parallel computers, such as the NASA Pleiades Supercomputer, but flexible enough to also run on a Mac laptop computer. WRF is used for a variety of applications in research on terrestrial micro- and meso-scale meteorology and in weather forecasting via data assimilation.

Several major modifications of WRF were needed to allow it to run as a global and as a planetary model. All of the global modifications have now been infused back into the terrestrial version of the model (WRFv3.1 and higher) by NCAR.

PlanetWRF has so far been applied to Mars, Titan, Jupiter/Saturn, Pluto and Venus. For Mars, the model has been used to simulate convective structures in the boundary layer on scales down to a few tens of meters, and global scale circulation systems in General Circulation Model (GCM) mode. For Titan, the formation of methane clouds and rain is being studied, as well as the global circulation.

The model development was primarily supported by the NASA Applied Information Systems Research (AISR) program, with additional funding from the NASA Mars Fundamental Research, Outer Planets Research, and Planetary Atmospheres Research Programs.