Many separate tasks must be performed to configure, run, and analyze Earth system modeling applications. This work is motivated by the complexities of running a large modeling system on a high performance network and the need to reduce those complexities, particularly for the average user. Scientific workflow systems can be used to simplify these task and their relationships, although how to implement such systems is still an open research area. In this paper, we present a methodology to combine a scientific workflow and modeling framework approach to create a standardized work environment and provide a first example of a self-describing Earth system model. We then show the results of an example workflow that is based on the proposed methodology. The example workflow allows running and analyzing a global circulation model on both a grid computing environment and a cluster system, with meaningful abstractions for the model and computing environment. As can be seen through this example, a layered approach to collecting provenance and metadata information has the added benefit of documenting a run in far greater detail than before. This approach facilitates exploration of runs and leads to possible reproducibility. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.