Research Project Full Title: EarthCube IA: Collaborative Proposal: Advancing netCDF-CF for the Geoscience Community
Principal Investigator(s): David Arctur, Tim Whiteaker
Sponsor(s): University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)
Full Abstract: The Climate and Forecast (CF) metadata convention for netCDF (referred to here as netCDFCF) has been widely used in the weather and climate modeling community for over ten years. In recent years, use of netCDFCF has spread into other geoscience domains. While the main focus of netCDFCF has long been gridded data, due mainly to the netCDF classic data model which handles multidimensional arrays, it is also used for various types of observational data. In 2008, with the release of netCDF4, the netCDF enhanced data model became available (built on the HDF5 data model and file format). The netCDF enhanced data model has a number of features that can be used to more easily represent the semantic structure of observational data and other more complex data types. While increasing numbers of data providers are beginning to use features of the netCDF enhanced data model, the CF metadata convention has not yet been extended to support those features.
This project is intended to advance the netCDFCF standard and its use in several ways. First, it would broaden the range of geoscience domains supported by netCDFCF. To this end, Unidata is working closely with a number of groups to ensure their data is compliant with netCDFCF and can be accessed through standard netCDFCF enabled tools.
Second, this project would extend the types of data (e.g., gridded, station, radar, and satellite) supported by netCDFCF. The University of Texas group has focused on extending the way netCDFCF represents the spatial extent over which a data value is valid beyond the current point/cell spatial extent to include polylines, polygons, and other more complex coverages.
Third, it would help extend the CF convention to use features of the netCDF enhanced data model. A number of groups are focusing on different aspects of the netCDF enhanced data model and incorporating them into CF, such as for representing hierarchical groups of data and data properties.
All of these efforts are actively engaging the wider scientific and CF community throughout the project and work to ensure these are community developed extensions to the CF standard. The project leaders organized a community workshop in May 2016 with international participation to advance netCDF-CF in several key directions. A second workshop is planned for September 2017 to continue the progress and look for ways to sustain efforts on these advancements.
The poster linked below, presented at the EarthCube All Hands Meeting in June 2017, summarizes the current progress. [See full-size poster here]