Tutorial 3: Modify an Existing Model

This tutorial walks through the steps to modify an existing model. There are several existing models publically available on Github, and for the purposes of this tutorial we will use the MimiDICE2010 model.

Working through the following tutorial will require:

  • Julia v1.4.0 or higher
  • Mimi v0.10.0 or higher
  • connection of your julia installation with the central Mimi registry of Mimi models

If you have not yet prepared these, go back to the first tutorial to set up your system.

Note that we have recently released Mimi v1.0.0, which is a breaking release and thus we cannot promise backwards compatibility with version lower than v1.0.0 although several of these tutorials may run properly with older versions. For assistance updating your own model to v1.0.0, or if you are curious about the primary changes made, see the How-to Guide on porting to Mimi v1.0.0. Mimi v0.10.0 is functionally dentical to Mimi v1.0.0, but includes deprecation warnings instead of errors to assist users in porting to v1.0.0.


There are various ways to modify an existing model, and this tutorial aims to introduce the Mimi API relevant to this broad category of tasks. It is important to note that regardless of the goals and complexities of your modifications, the API aims to allow for modification without alteration of the original code for the model being modified. Instead, you will download and run the existing model, and then use API calls to modify it. This means that in practice, you should not need to alter the source code of the model you are modifying. Thus, it is easy to keep up with any external updates or improvements made to that model.

Possible modifications range in complexity, from simply altering parameter values, to adjusting an existing component, to adding a brand new component.

Parametric Modifications: The API

Several types of changes to models revolve around the parameters themselves, and may include updating the values of parameters and changing parameter connections without altering the elements of the components themselves or changing the general component structure of the model. The most useful functions of the common API in these cases are likely update_param!/update_params!, disconnect_param!, and connect_param!. For detail on these functions see the API reference guide, Reference Guide: The Mimi API.

When the original model calls set_param!, Mimi creates an external parameter by the name provided, and stores the provided scalar or array value. The functions update_param! and update_params! allow you to change the value associated with this external parameter. Note that if the external parameter has a :time dimension, use the optional argument update_timesteps=true to indicate that the time keys (i.e., year labels) associated with the parameter should be updated in addition to updating the parameter values.

update_param!(mymodel, :parametername, newvalues) # update values only 

update_param!(mymodel, :parametername, newvalues, update_timesteps=true) # also update time keys. Only necessary if the time dimension of the model has been changed.

In the code above, newvalues must be the same size and type (or be able to convert to the type) of the old values stored in that parameter.

If you wish to alter connections within an existing model, disconnect_param! and connect_param! can be used in conjunction with each other to update the connections within the model, although this is more likely to be done as part of larger changes involving components themslves, as discussed in the next subsection.

Parametric Modifications: DICE Example

Step 1. Download MimiDICE2010

The first step in this process is downloading the DICE2010 model, which is now made easy with the Mimi registry. Assuming you have already done the one-time run of the following to connect your julia installation with the central Mimi registry of Mimi models,

pkg> registry add https://github.com/mimiframework/MimiRegistry.git

you simply need to add the MimiDICE2010 model in the Pkg REPL with:

pkg> add MimiDICE2010

You have now successfully downloaded MimiDICE2010 to your local machine.

Step 2. Run DICE

The next step is to run DICE using the provided API for the package:

using MimiDICE2010
m = MimiDICE2010.get_model()

These steps should be relatively consistent across models, where a repository for ModelX should contain a primary file ModelX.jl which exports, at minimum, a function named something like get_model or construct_model which returns a version of the model, and can allow for model customization within the call.

In this case, the function MimiDICE2010.get_model() has the signature


Thus there are no required arguments, although the user can input params, a dictionary definining the parameters of the model. If nothing is provided, the model will be built with the default parameters for DICE2010.

Step 3. Altering Parameters

In the case that you wish to alter an exogenous parameter, you may use the update_param! function. Per usual, you will start by importing the Mimi package to your space with

using Mimi

In DICE the parameter fco22x is the forcings of equilibrium CO2 doubling in watts per square meter, and exists in the components climatedynamics and radiativeforcing. We can change this value from its default value of 3.200 to 3.000 in both components, using the following code:

update_param!(m, :fco22x, 3.000)

A more complex example may be a situation where you want to update several parameters, including some with a :time dimension, in conjunction with altering the time index of the model itself. DICE uses a default time horizon of 2005 to 2595 with 10 year increment timesteps. If you wish to change this, say, to 2000 to 2500 by 10 year increment timesteps and use parameters that match this time, you could use the following code:

First you upate the time dimension of the model as follows:

const ts = 10
const years = collect(2000:ts:2500)
nyears = length(years)
set_dimension!(m, :time, years)

Now that you have changed the time dimension, you have a mismatch between the time labels attached to your parameters and the time labels used by the model. Thus, you must update at least all parameters with a :time dimension and use the explicit update_timesteps=true flag to get the time labels on the parameters to match those in the model. This is required even in cases where you do not want to change the parameter values themselves (see the forum question here) for an in-depth explanation of this case. You may of course also update parameters without a :time dimension as desired.

Create a dictionary params with one entry (k, v) per external parameter by name k to value v. Each key k must be a symbol or convert to a symbol matching the name of an external parameter that already exists in the model definition. Part of this dictionary may look like:

params = Dict{Any, Any}()
params[:a1]         = 0.00008162
params[:a2]         = 0.00204626
params[:S]          = repeat([0.23], nyears)

Now you simply update the parameters listen in params and re-run the model with

update_params!(m, params, update_timesteps=true)

Note again that here we use the update_timesteps flag and set it to true, because since we have changed the time index we want the time labels on the parameters to change, not simply their values.

Component and Structural Modifications: The API

Most model modifications will include not only parametric updates, but also structural changes and component modification, addition, replacement, and deletion along with the required re-wiring of parameters etc. The most useful functions of the common API, in these cases are likely replace!, add_comp! along with delete! and the requisite functions for parameter setting and connecting. For detail on the public API functions look at the API reference.

If you wish to modify the component structure we recommend you also look into the built-in helper components adder, ConnectorCompVector, and ConnectorCompMatrix in the src/components folder, as these can prove quite useful.

  • adder.jl – Defines Mimi.adder, which simply adds two parameters, input and add and stores the result in output.

  • connector.jl – Defines a pair of components, Mimi.ConnectorCompVector and Mimi.ConnectorCompMatrix. These copy the value of parameter input1, if available, to the variable output, otherwise the value of parameter input2 is used. It is an error if neither has a value.

Component and Structural Modifications: DICE Example

This example is in progress and will be built out soon.

Next, feel free to move on to the next tutorial, which will go into depth on how to create your own model.