Abstract. This paper presents the new adaptive dynamical core wavetrisk. The fundamental features of the wavelet-based adaptivity were developed for the shallow water equation on the β plane and extended to the icosahedral grid on the sphere in previous work by the authors. The three-dimensional dynamical core solves the compressible hydrostatic multilayer rotating shallow water equations on a multiscale dynamically adapted grid. The equations are discretized using a Lagrangian vertical coordinate version of the dynamico model. The horizontal computational grid is adapted at each time step to ensure a user-specified relative error in either the tendencies or the solution. The Lagrangian vertical grid is remapped using an arbitrary Lagrangian–Eulerian (ALE) algorithm onto the initial hybrid σ-pressure-based coordinates as necessary. The resulting grid is adapted horizontally but uniform over all vertical layers. Thus, the three-dimensional grid is a set of columns of varying sizes. The code is parallelized by domain decomposition using mpi, and the variables are stored in a hybrid data structure of dyadic quad trees and patches. A low-storage explicit fourth-order Runge–Kutta scheme is used for time integration. Validation results are presented for three standard dynamical core test cases: mountain-induced Rossby wave train, baroclinic instability of a jet stream and the Held and Suarez simplified general circulation model. The results confirm good strong parallel scaling and demonstrate that wavetrisk can achieve grid compression ratios of several hundred times compared with an equivalent static grid model.