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NetCDF (Network Common DataForm) is designed to facilitate access to array-oriented scientificdata. NetCDF is a portable, "self-describing"format. This means that there is a header whichdescribes the layout of the rest of the file, in particular the data arrays, as well as arbitrary file metadatain the form of name/value attributes. The additional informationabout a file or variable is commonly called "meta data" (informationabout the data). In some cases, the file's contents were written using a standardnetCDF convention which ensures users and automatic softwarethat certain 'rules' have been followed when creating the file. The two mostcommonly used netCDF conventions for climate data are the COARDS and CF conventions. The COARDSconvention, created in 1995, is simple and easy to read. The CF convention wascreated in 2003 to address the evolution of models and data sets. It is asuperset of the COARDS convention. It is quite precise in language.Unfortunately.

 

NetCDF is the format most commonly used for climate model generated data. The following is asample 'dump' of a typical netCDF file created by a climate model. It hasseveral components:

 

(a) dimension names;

(b) dimension sizes of the dimension names;

(c) the variables on the file which ofteninclude additional information about each variable and temporal/spatialcoordinates;

(d) global attributes which containinformation about the file's contents. 

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