Why does my simulation fail in GEMPACK 12, although it worked OK in earlier GEMPACK?

Some users have reported that a simulation that seemed to work OK in GEMPACK 11 (GP11) or earlier cannot be rerun using GEMPACK 12 (GP12). Instead the simulation ends badly with an arithmetic error (overflow or zero-divide), an illicit sign change, an assertion error, or a fatal loss of accuracy. Of course this is very annoying — we feel your pain!

To avoid such problems, the GEMPACK developers maintain a huge library of simulations, using many different models. Before each new GEMPACK release, we check that all these simulations still run OK, and produce the same results as before (or very nearly the same results). Hence, we are pretty confident that stable, well-behaved simulations which used to run will still run OK.

As hinted above, we cannot guarantee that results will be identical in new releases of GEMPACK, for various reasons:

In normal circumstances, the above effects are too small to raise concern, and we cannot say whether results computed the new way are more or less accurate than those computed in the old way — they are merely slightly different approximations to the true solution.

But a problem arises if the small differences (in GP12 relative to GP11) are sufficient to trigger some error condition. For example:

Problems like those above often occur in the initial stages of developing a simulation. The modeller may take various steps to make a simulation run, such as: loosening the tolerance in assertions; choosing a more accurate solution method; or editing the initial database to alleviate problems with zero or tiny flows. Probably, after some fine-tuning, the simulation completes, the modeller sighs with relief, and then gets on with other tasks. However, if the adjustments were only just sufficent to run the simulation under GP11, it is quite possible that under GP12 (with its slightly different numerical properties) the simulation fails. The modeller might need to again fine-tune the simulation.

We have examined several examples of simulations which completed under GP11 but crashed under GP12. In most cases the GP11 log files contained numerous warnings, suggesting that the original simulation was problematic, and was perhaps teetering on the edge of failure.

In some cases, GEMPACK will terminate a simulation if logged warnings are too numerous or severe: for example, if a linear system is solved inaccurately, or if extrapolation reveals that calculations are not converging to a solution. The criterion for termination may differ between GEMPACK versions — another reason why a simulation might run under GP11 not under GP12.

Our advice, to avoid or minimize such problems, is to examine all log file warnings carefully, and to take steps to reduce or eliminate such warnings. If you do this, it is far less likely that changes to GEMPACK will cause your previously-working simulations to fail.

See also:
Structurally and Numerically Singular Matrices
Solution Warnings
Solution Problems