This document describes the CF conventions for climate and forecast metadata designed to promote the processing and sharing of files created with the netCDF Application Programmer Interface [NetCDF]. The primary focus of the conventions is to enable applications to locate, both spatially and temporally, data contained in conforming netCDF files. This facilitates building applications with powerful data extraction, regridding, and display capabilities. The second main purpose is to provide a definitive description of the data in each variable to help users of data from different sources decide which quantities are comparable.
The CF conventions generalize and extend the COARDS conventions [COARDS]. The extensions include metadata that provides a precise definition of each variable via specification of a standard name, describes the vertical locations corresponding to dimensionless vertical coordinate values, and provides the spatial coordinates of non-rectilinear gridded data. Since climate and forecast data are often not simply representative of points in space/time, other extensions provide for the description of coordinate intervals or multidimensional cells and indicate how a data value is representative of an interval or cell. This standard also relaxes the COARDS constraints on dimension order.
The NetCDF library [NetCDF] is designed to read and write data that has been structured according to well-defined rules and is easily ported across various computer platforms. The netCDF interface enables but does not require the creation of self-describing datasets. The purpose of the CF conventions is to require conforming datasets to contain sufficient metadata that they are self-describing in the sense that each variable in the file has an associated description of what it represents, including physical units if appropriate, and that each value can be located in space (relative to earth-based coordinates) and time.
An important benefit of a convention is that it enables software tools to display data and perform operations on specified subsets of the data with minimal user intervention. It is possible to provide the metadata describing how a field is located in time and space in many different ways that a human would immediately recognize as equivalent. The purpose in restricting how the metadata is represented is to make it practical to write software that allows a machine to parse that metadata and to automatically associate each data value with its location in time and space.
This standard is intended for use with climate and forecast data, for atmosphere, surface and ocean, and was designed with model-generated data particularly in mind. We recognise that there are limits to what a standard can practically cover; we restrict ourselves to issues that we believe to be of common and frequent concern in the design of climate and forecast metadata. Our main purpose therefore, is to propose a clear, adequate and flexible definition of the metadata needed for climate and forecast data. Although this is specifically a netCDF standard, we feel that most of the ideas are of wider application. The metadata objects could be contained in file formats other than netCDF. Conversion of the metadata between files of different formats will be facilitated if conventions for all formats are based on similar ideas.
This convention is designed to be backward compatible with the COARDS conventions [COARDS], by which we mean that a conforming COARDS dataset also conforms to the CF standard. Thus new applications that implement the CF conventions will be able to process COARDS datasets.
We have also striven to maximize conformance to the COARDS standard, that is, wherever the COARDS metadata conventions provide an adequate description we require their use. Extensions to COARDS are implemented in a manner such that the content that doesn't depend on the extensions is still accessible to applications that adhere to the COARDS standard.
The terms in this document that refer to components of a netCDF file are defined in the NetCDF User's Guide (NUG) [NUG]. Some of those definitions are repeated below for convenience.
No variable or dimension names are standardized by this convention. Instead we follow the lead of the NUG [NUG] and standardize only the names of attributes and some of the values taken by those attributes. The overview provided in this section will be followed with more complete descriptions in following sections. Appendix A contains a summary of all the attributes used in this convention.
We recommend that the NUG defined attribute Conventions be given the string value "CF-1.0" to identify datasets that conform to these conventions.
The general description of a file's contents should be contained in the following global attributes: title, history, institution, source, comments and references (2.6.2). For backwards compatibility with COARDS none of these global attributes is required, but their use is recommended to provide human readable documentation of the file contents.
Each variable in a netCDF file has an associated description which is provided by the attributes units, long_name, and standard_name. The units, and long_name attributes are defined in the NUG and the standard_name attribute is defined in this document.
The units attribute is required for all variables that represent dimensional quantities (except for boundary variables defined in section 7.1). The values of the units attributes are character strings that are recognized by UNIDATA's Udunits package [UDUNITS] (with exceptions allowed as discussed in section 3.1).
The long_name and standard_name attributes are used to describe the content of each variable. For backwards compatibility with COARDS neither is required, but use of at least one of them is strongly recommended. The use of standard names will facilitate the exchange of climate and forecast data by providing unambiguous identification of variables most commonly analyzed.
Four types of coordinates receive special treatment by these conventions: latitude, longitude, vertical, and time. Every variable must have associated metadata that allows identification of each such coordinate that is relevant. Two independent parts of the convention allow this to be done. There are conventions that identify the variables that contain the coordinate data, and there are conventions that identify the type of coordinate represented by that data.
There are two methods used to identify variables that contain coordinate data. The first is to use the NUG-defined "coordinate variables." The use of coordinate variables is required for all dimensions that correspond to one dimensional space or time coordinates. In cases where coordinate variables are not applicable, the variables containing coordinate data are identified by the coordinates attribute.
Once the variables containing coordinate data are identified, further conventions are required to determine the type of coordinate represented by each of these variables. Latitude, longitude, and time coordinates are identified solely by the value of their units attribute. Vertical coordinates with units of pressure may also be identified by the units attribute. Other vertical coordinates must use the attribute positive which determines whether the direction of increasing coordinate value is up or down. Because identification of a coordinate type by its units involves the use of an external software package [UDUNITS], we provide the optional attribute axis for a direct identification of coordinates that correspond to latitude, longitude, vertical, or time axes.
Latitude, longitude, and time are defined by internationally recognized standards, and hence, identifying the coordinates of these types is sufficient to locate data values uniquely with respect to time and a point on the earth's surface. On the other hand identifying the vertical coordinate is not necessarily sufficient to locate a data value vertically with respect to the earth's surface. In particular a model may output data on the dimensionless vertical coordinate used in its mathematical formulation. To achieve the goal of being able to spatially locate all data values, this convention includes the definitions of common dimensionless vertical coordinates in Appendix C. These definitions provide a mapping between the dimensionless coordinate values and dimensional values that can be uniquely located with respect to a point on the earth's surface. The definitions are associated with a coordinate variable via the standard_name and formula_terms attributes. For backwards compatibility with COARDS use of these attributes is not required, but is strongly recommended.
It is often the case that data values are not representative of single points in time and/or space, but rather of intervals or multidimensional cells. This convention defines a bounds attribute to specify the extent of intervals or cells. When data that is representative of cells can be described by simple statistical methods, those methods can be indicated using the cell_methods attribute. An important application of this attribute is to describe climatological and diurnal statistics.
Methods for reducing the total volume of data include both packing and compression. Packing reduces the data volume by reducing the precision of the stored numbers. It is implemented using the attributes add_offset and scale_factor which are defined in the NUG. Compression on the other hand loses no precision, but reduces the volume by not storing missing data. The attribute compress is defined for this purpose.
These conventions generalize and extend the COARDS conventions [COARDS]. A major design goal has been to maintain backward compatibility with COARDS. Hence applications written to process datasets that conform to these conventions will also be able to process COARDS conforming datasets. We have also striven to maximize conformance to the COARDS standard so that datasets that only require the metadata that was available under COARDS will still be able to be processed by COARDS conforming applications. But because of the extensions that provide new metadata content, and the relaxation of some COARDS requirements, datasets that conform to these conventions will not necessarily be recognized by applications that adhere to the COARDS conventions. The features of these conventions that allow writing netCDF files that are not COARDS conforming are summarized below.
COARDS standardizes the description of grids composed of independent latitude, longitude, vertical, and time axes. In addition to standardizing the metadata required to identify each of these axis types COARDS restricts the axis (equivalently dimension) ordering to be longitude, latitude, vertical, and time (with longitude being the most rapidly varying dimension). Because of I/O performance considerations it may not be possible for models to output their data in conformance with the COARDS requirement. The CF convention places no rigid restrictions on the order of dimensions, however we encourage data producers to make the extra effort to stay within the COARDS standard order. The use of non-COARDS axis ordering will render files inaccessible to some applications and limit interoperability. Often a buffering operation can be used to miminize performance penalties when axis ordering in model code does not match the axis ordering of a COARDS file.
COARDS addresses the issue of identifying dimensionless vertical coordinates, but does not provide any mechanism for mapping the dimensionless values to dimensional ones that can be located with respect to the earth's surface. For backwards compatibility we continue to allow (but do not require) the units attribute of dimensionless vertical coordinates to take the values "level", "layer", or "sigma_level." But we recommend that the standard_name and formula_terms attributes be used to identify the appropriate definition of the dimensionless vertical coordinate (see section 4.3.2).
The CF conventions define attributes which enable the description of data properties that are outside the scope of the COARDS conventions. These new attributes do not violate the COARDS conventions, but applications that only recognize COARDS conforming datasets will not have the capabilities that the new attributes are meant to enable. Briefly the new attributes allow:
The components of a netCDF file are described in section 2 of the NUG [NUG]. In this section we describe conventions associated with filenames and the basic components of a netCDF file. We also introduce new attributes for describing the contents of a file.
NetCDF files should have the file name extension ".nc".
The netCDF data types char, byte, short, int, float or real, and double are all acceptable. The char type is not intended for numeric data. One byte numeric data should be stored using the byte data type. All integer types are treated by the netCDF interface as signed. It is possible to treat the byte type as unsigned by using the NUG convention of indicating the unsigned range using the valid_min, valid_max, or valid_range attributes.
NetCDF does not support a character string type, so these must be represented as character arrays. In this document, a one dimensional array of character data is simply referred to as a "string". An n-dimensional array of strings must be implemented as a character array of dimension (n,max_string_length), with the last (most rapidly varying) dimension declared large enough to contain the longest string in the array. All the strings in a given array are therefore defined to be equal in length. For example, an array of strings containing the names of the months would be dimensioned (12,9) in order to accommodate "September", the month with the longest name.
Variable, dimension and attribute names should begin with a letter and be composed of letters, digits, and underscores. Note that this is in conformance with the COARDS conventions, but is more restrictive than the netCDF interface which allows use of the hyphen character. The netCDF interface also allows leading underscores in names, but the NUG states that this is reserved for system use.
Case is significant in netCDF names, but it is recommended that names should not be distinguished purely by case, i.e., if case is disregarded, no two names should be the same. It is also recommended that names should be obviously meaningful, if possible, as this renders the file more effectively self-describing.
A variable may have any number of dimensions, including zero, and the dimensions must all have different names. COARDS strongly recommends limiting the number of dimensions to four, but we wish to allow greater flexibility. The dimensions of the variable define the axes of the quantity it contains. Dimensions other than those of space and time may be included. Several examples can be found in this document. Under certain circumstances, one may need more than one dimension in a particular quantity. For instance, a variable containing a two-dimensional probability density function might correlate the temperature at two different vertical levels, and hence would have temperature on both axes.
If any or all of the dimensions of a variable have the interpretations of ``date or time'' (T), ``height or depth'' (Z), ``latitude'' (Y), or ``longitude'' (X) then we recommend, but do not require (see section 1.4), those dimensions to appear in the relative order T, then Z, then Y, then X in the CDL definition corresponding to the file. All other dimensions should, whenever possible, be placed to the left of the spatiotemporal dimensions.
Dimensions may be of any size, including unity. When a single value of some physical quantity applies to all the values in a variable, the recommended means of attaching this information to the variable is by use of a dimension of size unity with a one-element coordinate variable. The advantage of this method is that all the attributes of a coordinate variable can be used to describe the single-valued quantity, including boundaries. For example, a variable containing data for temperature at 1.5 m above the ground has a single-valued vertical dimension supplying a height coordinate of 1.5 m, and a time-mean quantity has a single-valued time axis with an associated boundary variable to record the start and end of the averaging period.
This convention does not standardize variable names.
NetCDF variables that contain coordinate data are referred to as coordinate variables, auxiliary coordinate variables, or multidimensional coordinate variables.
The NUG conventions (NUG section 8.1) provide the _FillValue, valid_min, valid_max, and valid_range attributes to indicate missing data.
The NUG conventions for missing data changed significantly between version 2.3 and version 2.4. Since version 2.4 the NUG defines missing data as all values outside of the valid_range, and specifies how the valid_range should be defined from the _FillValue (which has library specified default values) if it hasn't been explicitly specified. If only one missing value is needed for a variable then we strongly recommend that this value be specified using the _FillValue attribute. Doing this guarantees that the missing value will be recognized by generic applications that follow either the before or after version 2.4 conventions.
The scalar attribute with the name _FillValue and of the same type as its variable is recognized by the netCDF library as the value used to pre-fill disk space allocated to the variable. This value is considered to be a special value that indicates undefined or missing data, and is returned when reading values that were not written. The _FillValue should be outside the range specified by valid_range (if used) for a variable. The netCDF library defines a default fill value for each data type (NUG section 7.16).
The missing_value attribute is considered deprecated by the NUG and we do not recommend its use. However for backwards compatibility with COARDS this standard continues to recognize the use of the missing_value attribute to indicate undefined or missing data.
The missing values of a variable with scale_factor and/or add_offset attributes (see section 8.1) are interpreted relative to the variable's external values, i.e., the values stored in the netCDF file. Applications that process variables that have attributes to indicate both a transformation (via a scale and/or offset) and missing values should first check that a data value is valid, and then apply the transformation. Note that values that are identified as missing should not be transformed. Since the missing value is outside the valid range it is possible that applying a transformation to it could result in an invalid operation. For example, the default _FillValue is very close to the maximum representable value of IEEE single precision floats, and multiplying it by 100 produces an "Infinity" (using single precision arithmetic).
This standard describes many attributes (some mandatory, others optional), but a file may also contain non-standard attributes. Such attributes do not represent a violation of this standard. Application programs should ignore attributes that they do not recognise or which are irrelevant for their purposes. Conventional attribute names should be used wherever applicable. Non-standard names should be as meaningful as possible. Before introducing an attribute, consideration should be given to whether the information would be better represented as a variable. In general, if a proposed attribute requires ancillary data to describe it, is multidimensional, requires any of the defined netCDF dimensions to index its values, or requires a significant amount of storage, a variable should be used instead. When this standard defines string attributes that may take various prescribed values, the possible values are given in lower case. However, applications programs should not be sensitive to case in these attributes. Several string attributes are defined by this standard to contain ``blank-separated lists''. Consecutive words in such a list are separated by one or more adjacent spaces. The list may begin and end with any number of spaces. See appendix A for a list of attributes described by this standard.
We recommend that netCDF files that follow these conventions indicate this by setting the NUG defined global attribute Conventions to the string value "CF-1.0". The string is interpreted as a directory name relative to a directory that is a repository of documents describing sets of discipline-specific conventions. The conventions directory name is currently interpreted relative to the directory pub/netcdf/Conventions/ on the host machine ftp.unidata.ucar.edu. The web based versions of this document are linked from: http://www.unidata.ucar.edu/packages/netcdf/conventions.html
The following global attributes are intended to provide information about where the data came from and what has been done to it. This information is mainly for the benefit of human readers. The attribute values are all character strings. For readability in ncdump outputs it is recommended to embed newline characters into long strings to break them into lines. For backwards compatibility with COARDS none of these global attributes is required.
The attributes described in this section are used to provide a description of the content and the units of measurement for each variable. We continue to support the use of the units and long_name attributes as defined in COARDS. We extend COARDS by adding the optional standard_name attribute which is used to provide unique identifiers for variables. This is important for data exchange since one cannot necessarily identify a particular variable based on the name assigned to it by the institution that provided the data.
The standard_name attribute can be used to identify variables that contain coordinate data. But since it is an optional attribute, applications that implement these standards must continue to be able to identify coordinate types based on the COARDS conventions.
The units attribute is required for all variables that represent dimensional quantities (except for boundary variables defined in section 7.1). The value of the units attribute is a string that can be recognized by UNIDATA's Udunits package [UDUNITS], with a few exceptions that are given below. The Udunits package includes a file udunits.dat, which lists its supported unit names. Note that case is significant in the units strings.
The units degree and degrees are not allowed for longitude and latitude coordinates because from these units an application would not be able to uniquely determine the coordinate type (see sections 4.1 and 4.2 for appropriate units of latitude and longitude). The COARDS convention prohibits the unit degrees altogether, but this unit is not forbidden by the CF convention because it may in fact be appropriate for a variable containing, say, solar zenith angle.
The units level, layer, and sigma_level are allowed for dimensionless vertical coordinates to maintain backwards compatibility with COARDS. These units are not compatible with Udunits and are deprecated by this standard because conventions for more precisely identifying dimensionless vertical coordinates are introduced (see section 4.3.2).
The Udunits package defines a few dimensionless units, such as percent, but is lacking commonly used units such as ppm (parts per million). We recommend that the units attribute still be used for these types of units, but have not attempted to standardize any new dimensionless units. On the other hand there is no need for a wide variety of dimensionless units for quantities like sea-ice concentration, cloud fraction, probability and so on; this descriptive information should be given in the long_name or standard_name attributes (see below) rather than the units.
The Udunits syntax that allows scale factors and offsets to be applied to a unit is not supported by this standard. The application of any scale factors or offsets to data should be indicated by the scale_factor and add_offset attributes. Use of these attributes is discussed in detail in the section on data packing which is their most important application.
Udunits recognizes the following prefixes and their abbreviations.
|1e1||deca, deka||da|| ||1e-1||deci||d|
The long_name attribute is defined by the NUG to contain a long descriptive name which may, for example, be used for labeling plots. For backwards compatibility with COARDS this attribute is optional. But it is highly recommended that either this or the standard_name attribute defined in the next section be provided to make the file self-describing. If a variable has no long_name attribute then an application may use, as a default, the standard_name if it exists, or the variable name itself.
A fundamental requirement for exchange of scientific data is the ability to describe precisely the physical quantities being represented. To some extent this is the role of the long_name attribute as defined in the NUG. However, usage of long_name is completely ad-hoc. For some applications it would be desirable to have a more definitive description of the quantity, which would allow users of data from different sources to determine whether quantities were in fact comparable. For this reason an optional mechanism for uniquely associating each variable with a standard name is provided.
The standard_name attribute of a variable takes its value from the appropriate identifier in the standard name table. The information in the table associated with this identifier uniquely defines the variable. Case is significant in the standard_name.
The standard name table is a sequence of entries, each containing:
The standard name table is located at http://www.???.???/???/standardNameTable.xml, written in compliance with the XML format, as described in Appendix B. Knowledge of the XML format is only necessary for application writers who plan to directly access the table. A formatted text version of the table is provided at http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cms/eaton/netcdf/standard_name_20010305.html, and this table may be consulted in order to find the standard name that should be assigned to a variable.
Files that make use of the standard name mechanism should provide the standard_name attribute for variables in the file. The value of the standard_name attribute must be one of the identifiers from the standard name table.
Use of standard_name:
float psl(lat,lon) ; psl:long_name = "mean sea level pressure" ; psl:units = "hPa" ; psl:standard_name = "air_pressure_at_sea_level" ;
The identifier air_pressure_at_sea_level is used to find the entry in the standard name table that uniquely defines the mean sea level pressure.
Four types of coordinates receive special treatment by these conventions: latitude, longitude, vertical, and time. We continue to support the special role that the units and positive attributes play in the COARDS convention to identify coordinate type. We extend COARDS by providing explicit definitions of dimensionless vertical coordinates. The definitions are associated with a coordinate variable via the standard_name and formula_terms attributes. For backwards compatibility with COARDS use of these attributes is not required, but is strongly recommended.
Because identification of a coordinate type by its units is complicated by requiring the use of an external software package [UDUNITS], we provide two optional methods that yield a direct identification. The attribute axis may be attached to a coordinate variable and given one of the values X, Y, Z or T which stand for a longitude, latitude, vertical, or time axis respectively. Alternatively the standard_name attribute may be used for direct identification. But note that these optional attributes are in addition to the required COARDS metadata.
The methods of identifying coordinate types described in this section apply both to coordinate variables and to auxiliary coordinate variables named by the coordinates attribute (see section 5).
Variables representing latitude must always explicitly include the units attribute; there is no default value. The units attribute will be a string formatted as per the udunits.dat file. The recommended unit of latitude is degrees_north. Also acceptable are degree_north, degree_N, degrees_N, degreeN, and degreesN.
float lat(lat) ; lat:long_name = "latitude" ; lat:units = "degrees_north" ;
Application writers should note that the Udunits package does not recognize the directionality implied by the "north" part of the unit specification. It only recognizes its size, i.e., 1 degree is defined to be pi/180 radians. Hence, determination that a coordinate is a latitude type should be done via a string match between the given unit and one of the acceptable forms of degrees_north.
Optionally, the latitude type may be indicated additionally by providing the standard_name attribute with the value latitude_north, and/or the axis attribute with the value Y.
Variables representing longitude must always explicitly include the units attribute; there is no default value. The units attribute will be a string formatted as per the udunits.dat file. The recommended unit of longitude is degrees_east. Also acceptable are degree_east, degree_E, degrees_E, degreeE, and degreesE.
float lon(lon) ; lon:long_name = "longitude" ; lon:units = "degrees_east" ;
Application writers should note that the Udunits package has limited recognition of the directionality implied by the "east" part of the unit specification. It defines degrees_east to be pi/180 radians, and hence equivalent to degrees_north. We recommend the determination that a coordinate is a longitude type should be done via a string match between the given unit and one of the acceptable forms of degrees_east.
Optionally, the longitude type may be indicated additionally by providing the standard_name attribute with the value longitude_east, and/or the axis attribute with the value X.
Variables representing dimensional height or depth axes must always explicitly include the units attribute; there is no default value.
The direction of positive (i.e., the direction in which the coordinate values are increasing), whether up or down, cannot in all cases be inferred from the units. The direction of positive is useful for applications displaying the data. For this reason the attribute positive as defined in the COARDS standard is required if the vertical axis units are not a valid unit of pressure (a determination which can be made using the udunits routine, utScan) -- otherwise its inclusion is optional. The positive attribute may have the value up or down (case insensitive).
For example, if an oceanographic netCDF file encodes the depth of the surface as 0 and the depth of 1000 meters as 1000 then the axis would use attributes as follows:
axis_name:units = "meters" ; axis_name:positive = "down" ;
If, on the other hand, the depth of 1000 meters were represented as -1000 then the value of the positive attribute would have been up. If the units attribute value is a valid pressure unit the default value of the positive attribute is down.
A vertical coordinate will be identifiable by:
Optionally, the vertical type may be indicated additionally by providing the standard_name attribute with an appropriate value, and/or the axis attribute with the value Z.
The units attribute for dimensional coordinates will be a string formatted as per the udunits.dat file. The acceptable units for vertical (depth or height) coordinate variables are:
Plural forms are also acceptable.
The units attribute is not required for dimensionless coordinates. For backwards compatibility with COARDS we continue to allow the units attribute to take one of the values: level, layer, or sigma_level. These values are not recognized by the Udunits package, and are considered a deprecated feature in the CF standard.
For dimensionless vertical coordinates we extend the COARDS standard by making use of the standard_name attribute to associate a coordinate with its definition from appendix C. The definition provides a mapping between the dimensionless coordinate values and dimensional values that can positively and uniquely indicate the location of the data. A new attribute, formula_terms, is used to associate terms in the definitions with variables in a netCDF file. To maintain backwards compatibility with COARDS the use of these attributes is not required, but is strongly recommended.
float lev(lev) ; lev:long_name = "sigma at layer midpoints" ; lev:positive = "down" ; lev:standard_name = "sigma" ; lev:formula_terms = "sigma: lev ps: PS ptop: PTOP" ;
The standard_name value sigma identifies the following definition from appendix C
p(i,j,k) = ptop + sigma(k)*(ps(i,j)-ptop)
The formula_terms attribute identifies the variable lev with the term sigma, the variable PS with the term ps, and the variable PTOP with the term ptop. Thus the pressure at a gridpoint (i,j,k) would be calculated by
p(i,j,k) = PTOP + lev(k)*(PS(i,j)-PTOP)
Variables representing time must always explicitly include the units attribute; there is no default value. The units attribute takes a string value formatted as per the recommendations in the Udunits package [UDUNITS]. The following excerpt from the Udunits documentation explains the time unit encoding by example:
The specification: seconds since 1992-10-8 15:15:42.5 -6:00 indicates seconds since October 8th, 1992 at 3 hours, 15 minutes and 42.5 seconds in the afternoon in the time zone which is six hours to the west of Coordinated Universal Time (i.e. Mountain Daylight Time). The time zone specification can also be written without a colon using one or two-digits (indicating hours) or three or four digits (indicating hours and minutes).
The acceptable units for time are listed in the udunits.dat file. The most commonly used of these strings (and their abbreviations) includes day (d), hour (hr, h), minute (min) and second (sec, s). Plural forms are also acceptable. The reference time string (appearing after the identifier since) may include date alone; date and time; or date, time, and time zone. The reference time is required. A reference time in year 0 has a special meaning (see section 7.3).
We recommend that the unit year be used with caution. The Udunits package defines a year to be exactly 365.242198781 days (the interval between 2 successive passages of the sun through vernal equinox). It is not a calendar year. Udunits includes the following definitions for years: a common_year is 365 days, a leap_year is 366 days, a Julian_year is 365.25 days, and a Gregorian_year is 365.2425 days.
For similar reasons the unit month, which is defined in udunits.dat to be exactly year/12, should also be used with caution.
double time(time) ; time:long_name = "time" ; time:units = "days since 1990-1-1 0:0:0" ;
A time coordinate is identifiable from its units string, alone. The Udunits routines utScan() and utIsTime() can be used to make this determination.
Optionally, the time coordinate may be indicated additionally by providing the standard_name attribute with an appropriate value, and/or the axis attribute with the value T.
In order to calculate a new date and time given a base date, base time and a time increment one must know what calendar to use. For this purpose we recommend that the calendar be specified by the attribute calendar which is assigned to the time coordinate variable. The values currently defined for calendar are:
The calendar attribute may be set to none in climate experiments that simulate a fixed time of year. The time of year is indicated by the date in the reference time of the units attribute. The time coordinate that might apply in a perpetual July experiment are given in the following example.
Perpetual time axis:
variables: double time(time) ; time:long_name = "time" ; time:units = "days since 1-7-15 0:0:0" ; time:calendar = "none" ; data: time = 0., 1., 2., ...;
Here, all days simulate the conditions of 15th July, so it does not make sense to give them different dates. The time coordinates are interpreted as 0, 1, 2, etc. days since the start of the experiment.
If none of these applies (e.g., calendars appropriate to a different paleoclimate era), a non-standard value can be assigned. The calendar attribute and the lengths of each month should be explicitly defined with the month_lengths attribute of the time axis:
If leap years are included, then two other attributes of the time axis should also be defined:
Paleoclimate time axis:
double time(time) ; time:long_name = "time" ; time:units = "days since 1-1-1 0:0:0" ; time:calendar = "126 kyr B.P." ; time:month_lengths = 34, 31, 32, 30, 29, 27, 28, 28, 28, 32, 32, 34 ;
The mixed Gregorian/Julian calendar used by Udunits is explained in the following excerpt from the udunits(3) man page:
The udunits(3) package uses a mixed Gregorian/Julian calen- dar system. Dates prior to 1582-10-15 are assumed to use the Julian calendar, which was introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BCE and is based on a year that is exactly 365.25 days long. Dates on and after 1582-10-15 are assumed to use the Gregorian calendar, which was introduced on that date and is based on a year that is exactly 365.2425 days long. (A year is actually approximately 365.242198781 days long.) Seem- ingly strange behavior of the udunits(3) package can result if a user-given time interval includes the changeover date. For example, utCalendar() and utInvCalendar() can be used to show that 1582-10-15 *preceded* 1582-10-14 by 9 days.
A variable's spatiotemporal dimensions are used to locate data values in time and space. This is accomplished by associating these dimensions with the relevant set of latitude, longitude, vertical, and time coordinates. This section presents two methods for making that association: the use of coordinate variables, and the use of auxiliary coordinate variables.
All of a variable's dimensions that are latitude, longitude, vertical, or time dimensions (see terminology) must have corresponding coordinate variables, i.e., one-dimensional variables with the same name as the dimension (see examples in section 4). This is the only method of associating dimensions with coordinates that is supported by COARDS [COARDS].
All of a variable's spatiotemporal dimensions that are not latitude, longitude, vertical, or time dimensions are required to be associated with the relevant latitude, longitude, vertical, or time coordinates via the new coordinates attribute of the variable. The value of the coordinates attribute is a blank separated list of the names of auxiliary coordinate variables. There is no restriction on the order in which the auxiliary coordinate variables appear in the coordinates attribute string. The dimensions of an auxiliary coordinate variable must be a subset (proper) of the spatiotemporal dimensions of the variable the coordinate is associated with.
The use of coordinate variables is required whenever they are applicable. That is, auxiliary coordinate variables may not be used as the only way to identify latitude and longitude coordinates that could be identified using coordinate variables. This is both to enhance conformance to COARDS and to facilitate the use of generic applications that recognize the NUG convention for coordinate variables. An application that is trying to find the latitude coordinate of a variable should always look first to see if any of the variable's dimensions correspond to a latitude coordinate variable. If the latitude coordinate is not found this way, then the auxiliary coordinate variables listed by the coordinates attribute should be checked. Note that it is permissible, but optional, to list coordinate variables as well as auxiliary coordinate variables in the coordinates attribute.
If the coordinate variables for a horizontal grid are not longitude and latitude, it is recommended that they be supplied in addition to the required coordinates. For example, the Cartesian coordinates of a map projection should be supplied as coordinate variables in addition to the required two-dimensional latitude and longitude variables that are identified via the coordinates attribute.
When each of a variable's spatiotemporal dimensions is a latitude, longitude, vertical, or time dimension, then each axis is identified by a coordinate variable.
dimensions: lat = 18 ; lon = 36 ; pres = 15 ; time = 4 ; variables: float xwind(time,pres,lat,lon) ; xwind:long_name = "zonal wind" ; xwind:units = "m/s" ; float lon(lon) ; lon:long_name = "longitude" ; lon:units = "degrees_east" ; float lat(lat) ; lat:long_name = "latitude" ; lat:units = "degrees_north" ; float pres(pres) ; pres:long_name = "pressure" ; pres:units = "hPa" ; double time(time) ; time:long_name = "time" ; time:units = "days since 1990-1-1 0:0:0" ;
xwind(n,k,j,i) is associated with the coordinate values lon(i), lat(j), pres(k), and time(n).
The latitude and longitude coordinates of a horizontal grid that was not defined as a Cartesian product of latitude and longitude axes, can sometimes be represented using two-dimensional coordinate variables. These variables are identified as coordinates by use of the coordinates attribute.
dimensions: xc = 128 ; yc = 64 ; lev = 18 ; variables: float T(lev,yc,xc) ; T:long_name = "temperature" ; T:units = "K" ; T:coordinates = "lon lat" ; float xc(xc) ; xc:long_name = "x-coordinate in Cartesian system" ; xc:units = "m" ; float yc(yc) ; yc:long_name = "y-coordinate in Cartesian system" ; yc:units = "m" ; float lev(lev) ; lev:long_name = "pressure level" ; lev:units = "hPa" ; float lon(yc,xc) ; lon:long_name = "longitude" ; lon:units = "degrees_east" ; float lat(yc,xc) ; lat:long_name = "latitude" ; lat:units = "degrees_north" ;
T(k,j,i) is associated with the coordinate values lon(j,i), lat(j,i), and lev(k). The vertical coordinate is represented by the coordinate variable lev(lev) and the latitude and longitude coordinates are represented by the auxiliary coordinate variables lat(yc,xc) and lon(yc,xc) which are identified by the coordinates attribute.
Note that coordinate variables are also defined for the xc and yc dimensions. This faciliates processing of this data by generic applications that don't recognize the multidimensional latitude and longitude coordinates.
We recommend that the name of a multidimensional coordinate variable should not match the name of any of its dimensions. This is to avoid potential bugs in applications that determine coordinate variables by only checking for a name match between a dimension and a variable and not checking that the variable is one dimensional.
A "reduced" longitude-latitude grid is one in which the points are arranged along constant latitude lines with the number of points on a latitude line decreasing toward the poles. Storing this type of gridded data in two-dimensional arrays wastes space, and results in the presence of missing values in the 2D coordinate variables. We recommend that this type of gridded data be stored using the compression scheme described in section 8.2. Compression by gathering preserves structure by storing a set of indices that allows an application to easily scatter the compressed data back to two-dimensional arrays. The compressed latitude and longitude auxiliary coordinate variables are identified by the coordinates attribute.
dimensions: lon = 128 ; lat = 64 ; rgrid = 6144 ; variables: float PS(rgrid) ; PS:long_name = "surface pressure" ; PS:units = "Pa" ; PS:coordinates = "lon lat" ; float lon(rgrid) ; lon:long_name = "longitude" ; lon:units = "degrees_east" ; float lat(rgrid) ; lat:long_name = "latitude" ; lat:units = "degrees_north" ; int rgrid(rgrid); rgrid:compress = "lat lon";
PS(n) is associated with the coordinate values lon(n), lat(n). Compressed grid index (n) would be assigned to 2D index (j,i) (C index conventions) where
j = rgrid(n) / 128 i = rgrid(n) - 128*j
Notice that even if an application does not recognize the compress attribute, the grids stored in this format can still be handled, by an application that recognizes the coordinates attribute.
To represent data at scattered points it is convenient to use a variable with one dimension to represent the measurement locations. Auxiliary coordinate variables are used to associate a single spatial dimension with multiple independent coordinates.
dimensions: station = 10 ; // measurement locations pressure = 11 ; // pressure levels time = UNLIMITED ; variables: float humidity(time,pressure,station) ; humidity:long_name = "specific humidity" ; humidity:coordinates = "lat lon" ; double time(time) ; time:long_name = "time of measurement" ; time:units = "days since 1970-01-01 00:00:00" ; float lon(station) ; lon:long_name = "station longitude"; lon:units = "degrees_east"; float lat(station) ; lat:long_name = "station latitude" ; lat:units = "degrees_north" ; float pressure(pressure) ; pressure:long_name = "pressure" ; pressure:units = "hPa" ;
humidity(n,k,i) is associated with the coordinate values time(n), pressure(k), lat(i), and lon(i).
A possible representation of the spatiotemporal locations of measurements along a flight path is to use time to parameterize the trajectory and use auxiliary coordinate variables to provide the spatial locations.
dimensions: time = 1000 ; variables: float O3(time) ; O3:long_name = "ozone concentration" ; O3:units = "1e-9" ; O3:coordinates = "lon lat z" ; double time(time) ; time:long_name = "time" ; time:units = "days since 1970-01-01 00:00:00" ; float lon(time) ; lon:long_name = "longitude" ; lon:units = "degrees_east" ; float lat(time) ; lat:long_name = "latitude" ; lat:units = "degrees_north" ; float z(time) ; z:long_name = "height above mean sea level" ; z:units = "km" ; z:positive = "up" ;
O3(n) is associated with the coordinate values time(n), z(n), lat(n), and lon(n).
The previous section contained several examples in which measurements from scattered sites were grouped using a single dimension. Coordinates of the site locations can be provided using auxiliary coordinate variables, but it is often desirable to identify measurement sites by name, or some other unique string.
The list of string identifiers plays an analogous role to a coordinate variable, hence we have chosen to use the coordinates attribute to provide the name of the variable that contains the string array. An application processing the variables listed in the coordinates attribute can recognize a labeled axis by checking whether or not a given variable contains character data.
Several parcel trajectories: Consider a set of ocean floats that follow parcel trajectories and simultaneously measure temperature at fixed times. We wish to identify the floats by name. The temperature data is a function of parcel (i.e., float) and time. The location of each sample is also a function of parcel and time, so the position information is stored in a multidimensional coordinate variable.
dimensions: parcel = 15 ; // number of trajectories times = 20 ; max_len_parcel_name = 64 ; // max length of trajectory name variables: float temperature(parcel,times) ; temperature:coordinates = "parcel_name lat lon" ; float times(times) ; char parcel_name(parcel,max_len_parcel_name) ; float lon(parcel,times) ; float lat(parcel,times) ;
In some situations a dimension may have alternative sets of coordinates values. Since there can only be one coordinate variable for the dimension (the variable with the same name as the dimension), any alternative sets of values have to be stored in auxiliary coordinate variables. For such alternative coordinate variables, there are no mandatory attributes, but they may have any of the attributes allowed for coordinate variables.
Model level numbers: Levels on a vertical axis may be described by both the physical coordinate and the ordinal model level number.
float xwind(sigma,lat); xwind:coordinates="model_level"; float sigma(sigma); // physical height coordinate sigma:long_name="sigma"; sigma:positive="down"; int model_level(sigma); // model level number at each height model_level:long_name="model level number"; model_level:positive="up";
When gridded data does not represent the point values of a field but instead represents some characteristic of the field within cells of finite "volume," a complete description of the variable should include metadata that describes the domain or extent of each cell, and the characteristic of the field that the cell values represent. It is possible for a single data value to be the result of an operation whose domain is a disjoint set of cells. This is true for many types of climatological averages, for example, the mean January temperature for the years 1970-2000. The methods that we present below for describing cells only provides an association of a grid point with a single cell, not with a collection of cells. However, climatological statistics are of such importance that we provide special methods for describing their associated computational domains in sections 7.3 and 7.4.
To represent cells we add the attribute bounds to the appropriate coordinate variable(s). The value of bounds is the name of the variable that contains the vertices of the cell boundaries. We refer to this type of variable as a "boundary variable." A boundary variable will have one more dimension than its associated coordinate or auxiliary coordinate variable. The additional dimension should be the most rapidly varying one, and its size is the maximum number of cell vertices. The ordering of the vertices is not specified, but must be consistent for all cells (e.g., always order clockwise around the cell). Since a boundary variable is considered to be part of a coordinate variable's metadata, it is not necessary to provide it with attributes such as long_name and units.
Note that the boundary variable for a set of N contiguous intervals is an array of shape (N,2). Although in this case there will be a duplication of the boundary coordinates between adjacent intervals, this representation has the advantage that it is general enough to handle, without modification, non-contiguous intervals, as well as intervals on an axis using the unlimited dimension.
Cells on a latitude axis:
dimensions: lat = 64; nv = 2; // number of vertices variables: float lat(lat); lat:long_name = "latitude"; lat:units = "degrees_north"; lat:bounds = "lat_bnds"; float lat_bnds(lat,nv);
The boundary variable lat_bnds associates a latitude gridpoint i with the interval whose boundaries are lat_bnds(i,0) and lat_bnds(i,1). The gridpoint location, lat(i), should be contained within this interval.
For rectilinear grids, two-dimensional rectangular cells can be expressed as Cartesian products of one-dimensional cells of the type in the preceding example. However for non-rectilinear grids a "rectangular" cell will in general require specifying all four vertices for each cell.
2D Cells on a non-rectilinear grid:
dimensions: nlon = 128; nlat = 64; nv = 4; variables: float lat(nlat,nlon); lat:long_name = "latitude"; lat:units = "degrees_north"; lat:bounds = "lat_bnds"; float lon(nlat,nlon); lon:long_name = "longitude"; lon:units = "degrees_east"; lon:bounds = "lon_bnds"; float lat_bnds(nlat,nlon,nv); float lon_bnds(nlat,nlon,nv);
The boundary variables lat_bnds and lon_bnds associate a gridpoint (j,i) with the cell determined by the vertices (lat_bnds(j,i,n),lon_bnds(j,i,n)), n=0,..,3. The gridpoint location, (lat(j,i),lon(j,i)), should be contained within this region.
To describe the characteristic of a field that is represented by cell values we define the cell_methods attribute of the variable. This is a string attribute comprising a list of blank-separated words of the form "name: method". Each "name: method" pair indicates that for the axis whose dimension name or standard_name is name, the cell values representing the field have been determined or derived by the specified method. The values of method should be selected from the list in Appendix D, which includes mean, maximum, minimum, mid_range, standard_deviation, variance, mode, and median. Case is not significant in the method name. Some methods (e.g., variance) imply a change of units of the variable, and this also is specified by Appendix D. It must be remembered that the method applies only to the axis indicated, and different methods may apply to other axes. If a precipitation value in a longitude-latitude cell is given the method maximum for these axes, for instance, it means that it is the maximum within these spatial cells, and does not imply that it is also the maximum in time.
The default interpretation for variables that have cells associated with their grid points, but do not have the cell_methods attribute specified, depends on whether the quantity is extensive (which depends on the size of the cell) or intensive (which doesn't). So, for example, suppose the quantities "accumulated precipitation" and "precipitation rate" each have a time axis and that time intervals are associated with each point on the time axis via a boundary variable. A variable representing accumulated precipitation is extensive in time and requires a time interval to be completely specified. Hence its default interpretation should be that the cell associated with the grid point represents the time interval over which the precipitation was accumulated. A precipitation rate on the other hand is intensive in time and could equally well represent an instantaneous value or a mean value over the time interval specified by the cell. However, if the mean method is not specified then the default interpretation for the quantity would be instantaneous.
Methods applied to a timeseries: Consider 12-hourly timeseries of pressure, temperature and precipitation from a number of stations, where pressure is measured instantaneously, maximum temperature for the preceding 12 hours is recorded, and precipitation is accumulated in a rain gauge. For a period of 48 hours from 6 a.m. on 19 April 1998, the data is structured as follows:
dimensions: time = UNLIMITED; // (5 currently) station = 10; nv = 2; variables: float pressure(station,time); pressure:long_name = "pressure"; pressure:units = "kPa"; float maxtemp(station,time); maxtemp:long_name = "temperature"; maxtemp:units = "K"; maxtemp:cell_methods = "time: maximum"; float ppn(station,time); ppn:long_name = "depth of water-equivalent precipitation"; ppn:units = "mm"; double time(time); time:long_name = "time"; time:units = "h since 1998-4-19 6:0:0"; time:bounds = "time_bnds"; double time_bnds(time,nv); data: time = 0., 12., 24., 36., 48.; time_bnds = -12.,0., 0.,12., 12.,24., 24.,36., 36.,48.;
Note that in this example the time axis values coincide with the end of each interval. It is sometimes desirable, however, to use the midpoint of intervals as coordinate values for variables that are representative of an interval. An application may simply obtain the midpoint values by making use of the boundary data in time_bnds.
If more than one cell method is to be indicated, they should be arranged in the order they were applied. The left-most operation is assumed to have been applied first. Suppose a quantity varies in both longitude and time (dimensions lon and time) within each gridbox. Values that represent the time-average of the zonal maximum are labelled cell_methods="lon: maximum time: mean", i.e. find the largest value at each instant of time over all longitudes, then average these maxima over time; values of the zonal maximum of time-averages are labelled cell_methods="time: mean lon: maximum". If the methods could have been applied in any order without affecting the outcome, they may be put in any order in the cell_methods attribute.
If a data value is representative of variation over a combination of axes, a single method should be prefixed by the names of all the dimensions involved, whose order is immaterial. Dimensions should be grouped in this way only if there is an essential difference from treating them individually. For instance, the standard deviation of topographic height within a longitude-latitude gridbox would have cell_methods="lat: lon: standard deviation". This is not the same as cell_methods="lon: standard deviation lat: standard deviation", which would mean finding the standard deviation along each parallel of latitude within the zonal extent of the gridbox, and then the standard deviation of these values over latitude.
To indicate more precisely how the cell method was applied, extra information may be included in parentheses () after the identification of the method. This information is not standardised and may be ignored by a generic application. A mean over latitude, for instance, may be area-weighted. This could be indicated as "lat: mean (area-weighted)".
A dimension of size one may be the result of "collapsing" an axis by some statistical operation, for instance by calculating a variance from time series data. We strongly recommend that dimensions of size one be retained and used to document the method and its domain.
Surface air temperature variance: The variance of the diurnal cycle on 1 January 1990 has been calculated from a time series of surface air temperature. The time dimension of size one has been retained.
dimensions: lat=90; lon=180; time=1; nv=2; variables: float TS_var(time,lat,lon); TS_var:long_name="surface air temperature variance" TS_var:units="K2"; TS_var:cell_methods="time: variance"; float time(time); time:units="days since 1990-01-01 00:00:00"; time:bounds="time_bnds"; float time_bnds(time,nv); data: time=.5; time_bnds=0.,1.;
A cell method can be given for a standard_name even if there is no dimension of the data variable corresponding to a coordinate variable with this standard_name. It is generally more informative and precise to introduce a dimension of size one specifically for this purpose, however. For example, we could describe a quantity as being a temporal variance with a cell_methods entry "time: variance" even if the variable has no time dimension, but it would be more informative to give the variable a time dimension of size one, which could also be used to show the range of times it covers.
When a time axis has intervals of longer than a day, different statistical treatments might be applied to variation within days and between days. For example, the data for a month of May might be the mean of the 31 daily maxima. In these circumstances, two separate methods are needed in the cell_methods attribute. The first entry indicates that days were first considered individually. This entry takes the form "name: [method] for each day", where method is included if one of the methods of Appendix D was applied to represent the variation within days (maximum for each day in the example). The second entry takes the usual form "name: method" and shows how the values for the individual days were aggregated (mean in the example).
Monthly-maximum daily precipitation totals: Metadata to indicate the maximum of daily precipitation amounts for each of the three months June, July and August 2000 are as follows. The first daily total applies to 6 a.m. on 1 June to 6 a.m. on 2 June, the 30th from 6 a.m. on 30 June to 6 a.m. on 1 July. The maximum of these 30 values is stored under time index 0 in the precipitation array. Time values printed in emphasized text show the translation of time coordinates into date and time, for convenience of reading the example.
dimensions: time=3; nv=2; variables: float precipitation(time,lat,lon); precipitation:long_name="Accumulated precipitation"; precipitation:cell_methods="time: for each day time: maximum"; precipitation:units="kg"; double time(time); time:bounds="bounds_time"; time:units="days since 2000-6-1"; double bounds_time(time,nv); data: time=2000-6-16, 2000-7-16, 2000-8-16; bounds_time=2000-6-1 6:00:00, 2000-7-1 6:00:00, 2000-7-1 6:00:00, 2000-8-1 6:00:00, 2000-8-1 6:00:00, 2000-9-1 6:00:00;
Climatological statistics are derived from corresponding portions of the annual cycle in a set of years e.g. the average monthly temperatures in the climatology of 1961-1990, where the value for each month is derived by averaging the 30 corresponding months from the separate years.
Climatological variables have a climatological time axis. Like an ordinary time axis, a climatological time axis may have a dimension of unity (for example, a variable containing only the January average temperatures for 1961-1990), but often it will have several elements covering a complete annual cycle (for example, a climatological time axis with a dimension of 12 for the climatological average temperatures in each month for 1961-1990). A climatological time axis by definition relates to the annual cycle, which is one calendar year long. However, a calendar year is not a well-defined unit of time, because it differs between leap years and other years, and among calendars. Nonetheless for practical purposes we wish to compare statistics for months or seasons from different calendars, and to make climatologies from a mixture of leap years and other years. Hence this convention makes special provisions for climatological time axes, in order to facilitate relating their coordinates to dates in the climatological year.
A climatological time axis is marked as such by a units attribute of time-units relative to midnight on 1 January in year 0 i.e. since 0-1-1 in udunits syntax. Thus all climatological times will be in year 0 (or year 1 for intervals that run across 1 January), as in the COARDS convention. For example, the boundaries for the climatological January are recorded as midnight on 1 January 0000 to midnight on 1 February 0000 i.e. values of 0 and 31 in units of days since 0-1-1 in the real-world calendars. Year 0 is used for the climatological time axis in order to indicate that the time intervals do not apply to a particular year. It should be borne in mind that udunits treats year 0 and year 1 as identical, because year 0 does not exist in the real-world calendar.
If the time-range used to make the climatology is known, it should be recorded in the the climatology attribute, as a two-element array using the same units and calendar as the time coordinate variable. For instance, for the 1961-1990 climatology of all months, the climatology attribute would specify midnight on 1 January 1961 to midnight on 1 January 1991.
A climatological axis may use different statistical methods to represent variation among years and within years. For example, the average January temperature in a climatology is obtained by averaging both within years and over years. This is different from the average January-maximum temperature and the maximum January-average temperature. For the former, we first calculate the maximum temperature in each January, then average these maxima; for the latter, we first calculate the average temperature in each January, then find the largest one. As usual, the statistical operations are recorded in the cell_methods attribute, which may have two entries for the climatological time dimension. The first entry indicates how variation within the intervals of each year is represented if one of the methods of Appendix D was applied. This entry can be omitted if the default interpretation applies to the time intervals within the climatological year (see 7.2). A second entry indicates how interannual variation is represented. In this entry, the statistical method is followed by the words over years. The cell_methods attribute may also, as usual, contain non-standardised information in parentheses after the method. For instance, a mean over ENSO years might be indicated by "time: mean over years (ENSO years)".
Climatological seasons: This example shows the metadata for the average seasonal-minimum temperature for the four standard climatological seasons MAM JJA SON DJF, made from data for March 1960 to February 1990. Note that this is a legal COARDS climatological time axis, with extra information that cannot be recorded by COARDS conventions provided in the climatology and cell_methods attributes. Time values printed in emphasized text show the translation of time coordinates into date and time, for convenience of reading the example.
dimensions: time=4; nv=2; variables: float temperature(time,lat,lon); temperature:long_name="surface air temperature"; temperature:cell_methods="time: minimum time: mean over years"; temperature:units="K"; double time(time); time:bounds="bounds_time"; time:climatology=1960-3-1, 1990-3-1; time:units="days since 0-1-1"; double bounds_time(time,nv); data: time=0-4-16, 0-7-16, 0-10-16, 1-1-16; bounds_time=0-3-1, 0-6-1, 0-6-1, 0-9-1, 0-9-1, 0-12-1, 0-12-1, 1-3-1;
Somewhat analogous to climatological statistics, there is also a need to describe statistics made from corresponding portions of a range of days, for instance the average temperature for each hour of the average day in April 1997. We refer to a time axis having this interpretation as a diurnal time axis, and it is indicated by the presence of a dates attribute, which specifies the start and end of the period used to compile the statistics, in a two-element array with the same units and calendar as the time coordinate variable. The coordinates in the time coordinate variable should be monotonic and contained within a single 24-hour period, but it does not matter what dates they apply to, since it is only the time of day which is meaningful in a diurnal time axis.
A diurnal time axis may use different statistical methods to represent variation among days and within days. The cell_methods attribute may have two entries for the diurnal time dimension. The first entry indicates how variation within the intervals of each day is represented, if the default interpretation does not apply to them, these being the intervals of the diurnal time axis. A second entry indicates how variation among days is represented. In this entry, the statistical method is followed by the words over days.
Temperature for each hour of the average day: Hourly average temperatures are given for April 1997. Time values printed in emphasized text show the translation of time coordinates into date and time, for convenience of reading the example.
dimensions: time=24; nv=2; variables: float temperature(time,lat,lon); temperature:long_name="surface air temperature"; temperature:cell_methods="time: mean time: mean over days"; temperature:units="K"; double time(time); time:bounds="bounds_time"; time:dates=1997-4-1, 1997-5-1; time:units="days since 1997-4-1"; double bounds_time(time,nv); data: time=0.5, 1.5, 2.5, ..., 23.5; bounds_time=0.0,1.0, 1.0,2.0, 2.0,3.0, ..., 23.0,24.0;
To represent a typical diurnal cycle within a climatological year, it is possible to label a time axis as both climatological and diurnal. In this case, the cell_methods attribute may contain three methods for the axis: one optional ordinary entry, a second suffixed over days and a third suffixed over years. Both climatology and dates attributes should be provided. Time values printed in emphasized text show the translation of time coordinates into date and time, for convenience of reading the example.
Temperature for each hour of the typical climatological day: This is a modified version of the previous example. It now applies to April from the 1961-1990 climatology.
variables: float temperature(time,lat,lon); temperature:long_name="surface air temperature"; temperature:cell_methods="time: mean ", "time: mean over days time: mean over years"; temperature:units="K"; double time(time); time:bounds="bounds_time"; time:climatology=1961-1-1, 1991-1-1; time:dates=0-4-1, 0-5-1; time:units="days since 0-1-1"; double bounds_time(time,2); data: time=0.5, 1.5, 2.5, ..., 23.5; bounds_time=0.0,1.0, 1.0,2.0, 2.0,3.0, ..., 23.0,24.0;
There are two methods for reducing dataset size: packing and compression. By packing we mean altering the data in a way that reduces its precision. By compression we mean techniques that store the data more efficiently and result in no precision loss. Compression only works in certain circumstances, e.g., when a variable contains a significant amount of missing or repeated data values. In this case it is possible to make use of standard utilities, e.g., UNIX compress or GNU gzip, to compress the entire file after it has been written. In this section we offer an alternative compression method that is applied on a variable by variable basis. This has the advantage that only one variable need be uncompressed at a given time. The disadvantage is that generic utilities that don't recognize the CF conventions will not be able to operate on compressed variables.
At the current time the netCDF interface does not provide for packing data. However a simple packing may be achieved through the use of the optional NUG defined attributes scale_factor and add_offset. After the data values of a variable have been read, they are to be multiplied by the scale_factor, and have add_offset added to them. If both attributes are present, the data are scaled before the offset is added. When scaled data are written, the application should first subtract the offset and then divide by the scale factor. The units of a variable should be representative of the unpacked data.
This standard is more restrictive than the NUG with respect to the use of the scale_factor and add_offset attributes; ambiguities and precision problems related to data type conversions are resolved by these restrictions. If the scale_factor and add_offset attributes are of the same data type as the associated variable, the unpacked data is assumed to be of the same data type as the packed data. However, if the scale_factor and add_offset attributes are of a different data type from the variable (containing the packed data) then the unpacked data should match the type of these attributes, which must both be of type float or both be of type double. An additional restriction in this case is that the variable containing the packed data must be of type byte, short or int. It is not advised to unpack an int into a float as there is a potential precision loss.
When data to be packed contains missing values the attributes that indicate missing values (_FillValue, valid_min, valid_max, valid_range) must be of the same data type as the packed data. See section 2.5.1 for a discussion of how applications should treat variables that have attributes indicating both missing values and transformations defined by a scale and/or offset.
To save space in the netCDF file, it may be desirable to eliminate points from data arrays that are invariably missing. Such a compression can operate over one or more adjacent axes, and is accomplished with reference to a list of the points to be stored. The list is constructed by considering a mask array that only includes the axes to be compressed, and then mapping this array onto one dimension without reordering. The list is the set of indices in this one-dimensional mask of the required points. In the compressed array, the axes to be compressed are all replaced by a single axis, whose dimension is the number of wanted points. The wanted points appear along this dimension in the same order they appear in the uncompressed array, with the unwanted points skipped over. Compression and uncompression are executed by looping over the list.
The list is stored as the coordinate variable for the compressed axis of the data array. Thus, the list variable and its dimension have the same name. The list variable has a string attribute compress, containing a blank-separated list of the dimensions which were affected by the compression in the order of the CDL declaration of the uncompressed array. The presence of this attribute identifies the list variable as such. The list, the original dimensions and coordinate variables (including boundary variables), and the compressed variables with all the attributes of the uncompressed variables are written to the netCDF file. The uncompressed variables can be reconstituted exactly as they were using this information.
Horizontal compression of a three-dimensional array: We eliminate sea points at all depths in a longitude-latitude-depth array of soil temperatures. In this case, only the longitude and latitude axes would be affected by the compression. We construct a list landpoint(landpoint) containing the indices of land points.
dimensions: lat=73; lon=96; landpoint=2381; depth=4; variables: int landpoint(landpoint); landpoint:compress="lat lon"; float landsoilt(depth,landpoint); landsoilt:long_name="soil temperature"; landsoilt:units="K"; float depth(depth); float lat(lat); float lon(lon); data: landpoint=363, 364, 365, ...;
Since landpoint(0)=363, for instance, we know that landsoilt(*,0) maps on to point 363 of the original data with dimensions (lat,lon). This corresponds to indices (3,75), i.e., 363 = 3*96 + 75.
Compression of a three-dimensional field: We compress a longitude-latitude-depth field of ocean salinity by eliminating points below the sea-floor. In this case, all three dimensions are affected by the compression, since there are successively fewer active ocean points at increasing depths.
variables: float salinity(time,oceanpoint); int oceanpoint(oceanpoint); oceanpoint:compress="depth lat lon"; float depth(depth); float lat(lat); float lon(lon); double time(time);
This information implies that the salinity field should be uncompressed to an array with dimensions (depth,lat,lon).
|add_offset||N||D||NUG(8.1) , 8.1||If present for a variable, this number is to be added to the data after it is read by an application. If both scale_factor and add_offset attributes are present, the data are first scaled before the offset is added.|
|axis||S||C||4||Identifies latitude, longitude, vertical, or time axes.|
|bounds||S||C||7.1||Identifies a boundary variable.|
|calendar||S||C||4.4.1||Calendar used for encoding time axes.|
|cell_methods||S||D||7.2, 7.2, 7.3||Records the method used to derive data that represents cell values.|
|climatology||N||C||7.3||Records the range of dates to which climatological statistics apply.|
|comment||S||G||2.6.2||Miscellaneous information about the data or methods used to produce it.|
|compress||S||D||8.2, 5.3||Records dimensions which have been compressed by gathering.|
|Conventions||S||G||NUG(8.1)||Name of the conventions followed by the dataset.|
|coordinates||S||D||5, 6.1, 6.2||Identifies variables containing coordinate data.|
|dates||N||C||7.4||Records the range of dates to which statistics for a typical diurnal cycle apply.|
|_FillValue||N||D||NUG(8.1)||A value used to represent missing or undefined data.|
|formula_terms||S||C||4.3.2||Identifies variables that correspond to the terms in a formula.|
|history||S||G||NUG(8.1)||List of the applications that have modified the original data.|
|institution||S||G||2.6.2||Where the original data was produced.|
|leap_month||N||C||4.4.1||Specifies which month is lengthened by a day in leap years for a user defined calendar.|
|leap_year||N||C||4.4.1||Provides an example of a leap year for a user defined calendar. It is assumed that all years that differ from this year by a multiple of four are also leap years.|
|long_name||S||C, D||NUG(8.1), 3.2||A descriptive name that indicates a variable's content. This name is not standardized.|
|missing_value||N||D||2.5.1||A value used to represent missing or undefined data (deprecated by the NUG).|
|month_lengths||N||C||4.4.1||Specifies the length of each month in a non-leap year for a user defined calendar.|
|positive||S||C||[COARDS]||Direction of increasing vertical coordinate value.|
|references||S||G||2.6.2||References that describe the data or methods used to produce it.|
|scale_factor||N||D||NUG(8.1) , 8.1||If present for a variable, the data are to be multiplied by this factor after the data are read by an application See also the add_offset attribute.|
|source||S||G||2.6.2||Method of production of the original data.|
|standard_name||S||C, D||3.3||A standard name that references a description of a variable's content in the standard name table.|
|title||S||G||NUG(8.1)||Short description of the file contents.|
|units||S||C, D||NUG(8.1), 3.1||Units of a variable's content.|
|valid_max||N||C, D||NUG(8.1)||Largest valid value of a variable.|
|valid_min||N||C, D||NUG(8.1)||Smallest valid value of a variable.|
|valid_range||N||C, D||NUG(8.1)||Smallest and largest valid values of a variable.|
The CF standard name table is an XML document (i.e., its format adheres to the XML 1.0 [XML] recommendation). The XML suite of protocols provides a reasonable balance between human and machine readability. It also provides extensive support for internationalization. See the W3C [W3C] home page for more information.
The document begins with a header that identifies it as an XML file:
Optionally, this is followed by a reference to an external file that describes the structure of standard name tables.
<!DOCTYPE standard_name_table SYSTEM "standardNameTable.dtd">
The filename following the SYSTEM keyword refers to the document type definition. Next is the name table itself, which is bracketed by the tags <standard_name_table> and </standard_name_table>. The content (delimited by those tags) consists of, in order,
<institution>Name of institution here ... </institution> <contact>E-mail address of contact person ... </contact>
followed by a sequence of table entries which may be either entry blocks or alias blocks which take the following forms:
<entry id="an_id">Define the variable whose standard_name attribute has the value "an_id". </entry> <alias id="another_id">Provide alias for a variable whose standard_name attribute has the value "another_id". </alias>
The value of the id attribute appearing in the entry and alias tags is a case sensitive string, containing no whitespace, which uniquely identifies the entry relative to the table. This is the value used for a variable's standard_name attribute.
The purpose of the entry blocks are to provide definitions for the id strings. Each entry block contains the following elements, in order:
<entry id="an_id"> <canonical_units>Representative units for the variable ... </canonical_units> <description>Definition of the variable ... </description> </entry>
The alias blocks do not contain definitions. Rather they contain the value of the id attribute of an entry block that contains the sought after definition. The purpose of the alias blocks are to provide a means for maintaining the table in a backwards compatible fashion. For example, if more than one id string was found to correspond to identical definitions, then the redundant definitions can be converted into aliases. It is not intended that the alias blocks be used to accommodate the use of local naming conventions in the standard_name attribute strings. Each alias block contains a single element:
<alias id="an_id"> <entry_id>Identifier of the defining entry ... </entry_id> </alias>
Example: A name table containing three entries.
<?xml version="1.0"?> <standard_name_table> <institution>Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison</institution> <contact>firstname.lastname@example.org</contact> <entry id="surface_air_pressure"> <canonical_units>Pa</canonical_units> <description>Pressure defined at the level of the mean topography within the grid box.</description> </entry> <entry id="air_pressure_at_sea_level"> <canonical_units>Pa</canonical_units> <description>Mean sea-level pressure. Standard atmosphere reduction.</description> </entry> <alias id="mean_sea_level_pressure"> <entry_id>air_pressure_at_sea_level</entry_id> </alias> </standard_name_table>
The definition of a variable with the standard_name attribute surface_air_pressure is found directly since the block with id="surface_air_pressure" is an entry block which contains the definition.
The definition of a variable with the standard_name attribute mean_sea_level_pressure is found indirectly by first finding the block with the id="mean_sea_level_pressure", and then, since this is an alias block, by searching for the block with id="air_pressure_at_sea_level" as indicated by the value of the entry_id tag.
It is possible that new tags may be added in the future. Any applications that parse the standard table should be written so that unrecognized tags are gracefully ignored.
The definitions given here allow an application to compute dimensional coordinate values from the dimensionless ones and associated variables. The formulas are expressed for a gridpoint (i,j,k) where i and j are the horizontal indices and k is the vertical index. A coordinate variable is associated with its definition by the value of the standard_name attribute. The terms in the definition are associated with file variables by the formula_terms attribute. The formula_terms attribute takes a string value, the string being comprised of blank-separated elements of the form "term: variable", where term is a keyword that represents one of the terms in the definition, and variable is the name of the variable in a netCDF file that contains the values for that term. The order of elements is not significant.
standard_name = "sigma"
p(i,j,k) = ptop + sigma(k)*(ps(i,j)-ptop)
where p(i,j,k) is the pressure at gridpoint (i,j,k), ptop is the pressure at the top of the model, sigma(k) is the dimensionless coordinate at vertical gridpoint (k), and ps(i,j) is the surface pressure at horizontal gridpoint (i,j).
The format for the formula_terms attribute is
formula_terms = "sigma: var1 ps: var2 ptop: var3"
standard_name = "hybrid_sigma_pressure"
p(i,j,k) = a(k)*p0 + b(k)*ps(i,j)
p(i,j,k) = ap(k) + b(k)*ps(i,j)
where p(i,j,k) is the pressure at gridpoint (i,j,k), a(k) or ap(k) and b(k) are components of the hybrid coordinate at level k, p0 is a reference pressure, and ps(i,j) is the surface pressure at horizontal gridpoint (i,j). The choice of whether a(k) or ap(k) is used depends on model formulation; the former is a dimensionless fraction, the latter a pressure value. In both formulations, b(k) is a dimensionless fraction.
The format for the formula_terms attribute is
formula_terms = "a: var1 b: var2 ps: var3 p0: var4"
where a is replaced by ap if appropriate.
The hybrid sigma-pressure coordinate for level k is defined as a(k)+b(k) or ap(k)/p0+b(k), as appropriate.
standard_name = "hybrid_height"
z(i,j,k) = tau(k)*zsurface(i,j) + eta(k)*ztop
where z(i,j,k) is the height above the geoid (approximately mean sea level) at gridpoint (i,j,k), zsurface(i,j) is the height of the surface about mean sea level at (i,j), ztop is the height of the top of the model, and tau(k) and eta(k) are the dimensionless coordinates which define hybrid height level k.
The format for the formula_terms attribute is
formula_terms = "tau: var1 eta: var2 ztop: var3 zsurface: var4"
The hybrid height coordinate for level k is defined as eta(k)*ztop.
|mid_range||u||Average of maximum and minimum|
|mean||u||Mean (average value)|
|mode||u||Mode (most common value)|