Massive-Parallel Trajectory Calculations (MPTRAC) is a Lagrangian particle dispersion model for the analysis of atmospheric transport processes in the free troposphere and stratosphere.
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Massive-Parallel Trajectory Calculations

Massive-Parallel Trajectory Calculations (MPTRAC) is a Lagrangian particle dispersion model for the analysis of atmospheric transport processes in the free troposphere and stratosphere.


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  • MPTRAC calculates air parcel trajectories by solving the kinematic equation of motion using given horizontal wind and vertical velocity fields from global reanalyses or forecasts.
  • Mesoscale diffusion and subgrid-scale wind fluctuations are simulated using the Langevin equation to add stochastic perturbations to the trajectories. A new inter-parcel exchange module represents mixing of air.
  • Additional modules are implemented to simulate convection, sedimentation, exponential decay, gas and aqueous phase chemistry, and wet and dry deposition.
  • Meteorological data pre-processing code provides estimates of the boundary layer, convective available potential energy, geopotential heights, potential vorticity, and tropopause data.
  • Various output methods for particle, grid, ensemble, profile, sample, and station data. Gnuplot and ParaView interfaces for visualization.
  • MPI-OpenMP-OpenACC hybrid parallelization and distinct code optimizations for efficient use from single workstations to HPC and GPU systems.
  • Distributed as open source under the terms of the GNU GPL.

Getting started


This README file describes the installation of MPTRAC on a Linux system.

The following software dependencies are mandatory for the compilation of MPTRAC:

Optionally, the following software is required to enable further capabilities of MPTRAC:

Some of the software is provided along with the MPTRAC repository, please see next section.


Start by downloading the most recent or any of the earlier MPTRAC releases on GitHub. Unzip the release file:


Alternatively, you can retrieve the most recent development version of the software from the GitHub repository:

git clone

Several libraries provided along with MPTRAC can be compiled and installed by running a build script:

cd [mptrac_directory]/libs
./ -a

Next, change to the source directory and edit the Makefile according to your needs:

cd [mptrac_directory]/src
emacs Makefile

In particular, you might want to check:

  • Edit the LIBDIR and INCDIR paths to point to the directories where the GSL, netCDF, and other libraries are located on your system.

  • By default, the MPTRAC binaries will be linked statically, i.e., they can be copied and used on other machines. However, sometimes static compilations causes issues, e.g., in combination with dynamically compiled GSL and netCDF libraries or when using MPI and OpenACC. In this case, disable the STATIC flag and remember to set the LD_LIBRARY_PATH to include the paths to the shared libraries.

  • To make use of the MPI parallelization of MPTRAC, the MPI flag needs to be enabled. Further steps will require an MPI library such as OpenMPI to be available on your system. To make use of the OpenACC parallelization, the GPU flag needs to be enabled. The NVIDIA HPC SDK is required to compile the GPU code. The OpenMP parallelization of MPTRAC is always enabled.

Next, try to compile the code:

make [-j]

To run the test cases to check the installation, please use:

make check

This will run sequentially through a set of tests. The execution of the tests will stop if any of the tests fails. Please inspect the log messages.

Run the example

A simple example is provided, illustrating how to simulate the dispersion of volcanic ash from the eruption of the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcano, Chile, in June 2011.

The example can be found in the projects/example subdirectory. The project subdirectory can also be used to store the results of your own simulation experiments with MPTRAC.

The example simulation is controlled by a shell script:

cd mptrac/projects/example

Please see the script on how to invoke MPTRAC programs such as atm_init and atm_split to initialize trajectory seeds and trac to calculate the trajectories.

The script generates simulation output in the examples/data subdirectory. The corresponding reference data can be found in examples/data.ref.

A set of plots of the simulation output at different time steps after the eruption generated by means of the gnuplot graphing tool can be found examples/plots. The plots should look similar to the output provided in examples/plots.ref.

This is an example showing the particle positions and grid output on 6th and 8th of June 2011:

Further information

More detailed information for users of MPTRAC is provided in the user manual.

These are the main scientific publications providing information on MPTRAC:

  • Hoffmann, L., Baumeister, P. F., Cai, Z., Clemens, J., Griessbach, S., Günther, G., Heng, Y., Liu, M., Haghighi Mood, K., Stein, O., Thomas, N., Vogel, B., Wu, X., and Zou, L.: Massive-Parallel Trajectory Calculations version 2.2 (MPTRAC-2.2): Lagrangian transport simulations on graphics processing units (GPUs), Geosci. Model Dev., 15, 2731–2762,, 2022.

  • Hoffmann, L., T. Rößler, S. Griessbach, Y. Heng, and O. Stein, Lagrangian transport simulations of volcanic sulfur dioxide emissions: Impact of meteorological data products, J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 121, 4651-4673,, 2016.

Additional references are collected on the references web site.

Information for developers of MPTRAC is provided in the doxygen manual.


We are interested in supporting operational and research applications with MPTRAC.

You can submit bug reports or feature requests on the issue tracker.

Proposed code modifications can be submitted as pull requests.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or need support.


MPTRAC is distributed under the GNU General Public License v3.0.

Please see the citation file for further information on citing the MPTRAC model in scientific publications.


Dr. Lars Hoffmann

Jülich Supercomputing Centre, Forschungszentrum Jülich

e-mail: [email protected]

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