How-to Guide 4: Work with Timesteps

Timesteps and Available Functions

An AbstractTimestep i.e. a FixedTimestep or a VariableTimestep is a type defined within Mimi in "src/time.jl". It is used to represent and keep track of time indices when running a model.

In the run_timestep functions which the user defines, it may be useful to use any of the following functions, where t is an AbstractTimestep object:

is_first(t) # returns true or false, true if t is the first timestep to be run for the respective component
is_last(t) # returns true or false, true if t is the last timestep to be run for the respective component
gettime(t) # returns the year represented by timestep t

There are also two helper types TimestepValue and TimestepIndex that can be used with comparison operators (==, <, and >) to check whether an AbstractTimestep t during the run_timestep function corresponds with a certain year or index number. For example:

if t > TimestepValue(2020)
  # run this code only for timesteps after the year 2020

if t == TimestepIndex(3)
  # run this code only during the third timestep

See below for further discussion of the TimestepValue and TimestepIndex objects and how they should be used.

The API details for AbstractTimestep object t are as follows:

  • you may index into a variable or parameter with [t] or [t +/- x] as usual
  • to access the time value of t (currently a year) as a Number, use gettime(t)
  • useful functions for commonly used conditionals are is_first(t) and is_last(t)
  • to access the index value of t as a Number representing the position in the time array, use t.t. Users are encouraged to avoid this access, and instead use comparisons with TimestepIndex objects to check if an AbstractTimestep t corresponds with a specific index number, as described above.

Indexing into a variable or parameter's time dimension with an Integer is deprecated and will soon error. Instead, users should take advantage of the TimestepIndex and TimestepValue types. For examples we will refer back to our component definition above, and repeated below.

@defcomp MyComponentName begin
  regions = Index()

  A = Variable(index = [time])
  B = Variable(index = [time, regions])

  c = Parameter()
  d = Parameter(index = [time])
  e = Parameter(index = [time, regions])
  f = Parameter(index = [regions])

  function run_timestep(p, v, d, t)
    v.A[t] = p.c + p.d[t]
    for r in d.regions
      v.B[t, r] = p.f[r] * p.e[t, r]


TimestepIndex has one field, index, which refers to the absolute index in the parameter or variable array's time dimension. Thus, constructing a TimestepIndex is done by simply writing TimestepIndex(index::Int). Looking back at our original component example, one could modify the first line of run_timestep to always refer to the first timestep of p.d with the following. One may index into the time dimension with a single TimestepIndex, or an Array of them.

v.A[t] = p.c + p.d[TimestepIndex(1)]

TimestepValue has two fields, value and offset, referring to the value within the time dimension and an optional offset from that value. Thus, constructing a TimestepValue is done either by writing TimestepValue(value), with an implied offset of 0, or TimestepValue(value, offset = i::Int), with an explicit offset of i. One may index into the time dimension with a single TimestepValue, or an Array of them. For example, you can use a TimestepValue to keep track of a baseline year.

v.A[t] = p.c + p.d[TimestepValue(2000)]

You may also use shorthand to create arrays of TimestepIndex using Colon syntax.

TimestepIndex(1):TimestepIndex(10) # implicit step size of 1
TimestepIndex(1):2:TimestepIndex(10) # explicit step of type Int 

Both TimestepIndex and TimestepArray have methods to support addition and subtraction of integers. Note that the addition or subtraction is relative to the definition of the time dimension, so while TimestepIndex(1) + 1 == TimestepIndex(2), TimestepValue(2000) + 1 could be equivalent to TimestepValue(2001) if 2001 is the next year in the time dimension, or TimestepValue(2005) if the array has a step size of 5. Hence adding or subtracting is relative to the definition of the time dimension.