Our Research
Focuses on bringing together diverse modeling capabilities to study how the coupled human-Earth system responds to different stresses

Long-Term Objectives:

The long-term objectives of the IM3 project are to:

  1. Develop flexible, open-source, integrated modeling capabilities that capture the structure, dynamic behavior, and emergent properties of the multiscale interactions within and between human and natural systems.
  2. Use these capabilities to study the evolution, vulnerability, and resilience of interacting human and natural systems and landscapes from local to continental scales, including their responses to the compounding effects of long-term influences and short-term shocks.
  3. Understand the implications of uncertainty in data, observations, models, and model coupling approaches for projections of human-natural system dynamics.


The first four years of IM3 (Phase 1) began to build the foundational scientific understanding and computational tools needed to develop and deploy integrated multisector, multiscale modeling capabilities, with major research thrust areas in , , and .

As of late 2020, we began IM3 Phase 2, which focuses on a set of coordinated experiments and supporting model development to address the following research questions for the US:

  • How will urban heat stress evolve due to compounding influences such as climate change, electrification, and socioeconomic change, and how effective are adaptations such as green roofs?
  • How will electricity grid stress evolve under different capacity expansion plans developed to respond to changes in energy policy, energy technologies, socioeconomics, and climate change?
  • How will land use and water scarcity evolve due to energy system transitions, financial risks, socioeconomic change, and climate change?

We are exploring these questions at multiple scales, using models designed for U.S.-wide studies as well as models with higher spatial, temporal, and process resolutions that are focused on specific subregions (e.g., cities, watersheds). We are also developing and applying uncertainty characterization methods specific to multi-model workflows and computationally-intensive models. Ultimately, our vision is to dramatically improve the scientific understanding of how complex coupled human-natural systems respond to different influences and stressors, both short- and long-term, to inform decision-making across a range of sectors and scales.

Phase 2 Experimental Design

Phase 2 Experimental Design

Phase 1: Research Areas

Energy Water Nexus Figure

Energy-Water Dynamics Research

With the multiscale nature of energy-water interactions, this research focuses on understanding how large-scale information (e.g., at the major basin or balancing authority scale) can be effectively used by high-resolution models, and how fine-scale interactions, such as those between hydrology, water management, and electricity production, propagate across scales and affect vulnerability and resilience.

Land Use Land Cover Figure

Land Use and Land Cover Change

Strong, complex multiscale linkages between Land Use and Land Cover Change (LULCC) and other sectors make it an important sector to include in multisector modeling frameworks.

This research is designed to systematically study downscaling approaches, the complex multiscale linkages between LULCC and other human and natural systems, such as population dynamics and surface hydrology, and the implications of LULCC for terrestrial hydrology and ecosystem services on local to continental scales.

Population Dynamics Figure

Population Dynamics

Demographic dynamics—changes in total population, age structure, and spatial distribution— are key drivers of energy, water, and land use. Population distribution is also closely tied to infrastructure investments, exposure to extreme weather, and a host of other issues and systems.

IM3 has developed a new open-source modeling system for U.S. population dynamics that includes state-level demographic projections, a spatial downscaling model, and a representation of the influence of weather and climate on migration within the United States.