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THE NERC MST RADAR FACILITY AT ABERYSTWYTH
AN OVERVIEW OF FILE FORMATS
Introduction
The preferred file formats for datasets stored on the British Atmospheric Data Centre are:
  • NASA-Ames (for ASCII)
  • netCDF (for binary)
Both are self-descriptive and well-documented, ensuring that the file contents are easy to access and easy to understand. A number of legacy files still exist in non-standard formats, but all new datasets created between 2001 and 2006 have used the NASA-AMES format. Beginning in November 2006, data from the version-3 MST radar signal processing scheme have been written straight to netCDF format files.

Follow this link to find out about the formats used for particular files.

Why netCDF has been chosen over NASA-Ames for the version-3 MST radar data:
  • netCDF is designed for the storage of array-oriented (e.g. time-series or time-altitude) data. It is simple to retrieve data for selected regions of interest without having to read in the contents of the whole file.
  • Through use of variable "attributes", it is much simpler to store information about particular data products (e.g. the units used, the accuracy etc.) in netCDF than it is in NASA-AMES.
  • Use of the Climate and Forecast (CF) metadata conventions with netCDF ensures that standard names are used for standard data products (CF-like conventions have also been adopted in NASA-Ames files).
  • file reading routines are freely available for a number of popular programming languages: e.g. Matlab, IDL, Fortran, C, and Python. New datasets can be accessed in literally seconds - there is no need to develop a separate reading routine for each one.
Internal Links:
Return to the top of the page
Archiving conventions
File naming convention
File contents (and individual file formats)
The structure of a netCDF file
External Links:
BADC data management plan for UFAM/UWERN datasets
BADC introduction to the NASA-Ames and NetCDF file formats
Full description of the NASA-Ames formats: Gaines and Hipskind [1998]
NetCDF Climate and Forecasts (CF) Metadata Convention
Page maintained by David Hooper
Last updated 14th November 2006