# netCDF-3

This section details a set of additional conventions that are specific to the netCDF-3 file format.

The following table shows the mapping between HARP data types and netCDF-3 data types. NetCDF-3 data types not covered in this table are not supported by HARP.

HARP data type

netCDF-3 data type

int8

NC_BYTE

int16

NC_SHORT

int32

NC_INT

float

NC_FLOAT

double

NC_DOUBLE

string

NC_CHAR

The netCDF-3 data model defines the concept of shared dimensions. A netCDF-3 dimension has a name and a length. The name of a dimension should be unique. The shape of a netCDF-3 variable is specified as a list of dimensions (instead of a list of dimension lengths). This implies that to store a HARP product in netCDF-3 format, a netCDF-3 dimension should be defined for each dimension present in the product. This is straight-forward for all dimension types supported by HARP, except for independent dimensions (since HARP does not require that all independent dimensions have the same length).

For example, a variable may have an independent dimension of length 2, while another variable may have an independent dimension of length 4. However, it is not possible to create two netCDF-3 dimensions called ‘independent’ with different lengths, because netCDF-3 requires dimension names to be unique. Instead, the netCDF-3 backend defines a netCDF-3 dimension for each independent dimension by appending the length to the name of the dimension to make it unique. The name and the length are separated by an underscore. In the case of the example, two netCDF-3 dimensions would be defined, one named ‘independent_2’ and another named ‘independent_4’. Independent dimensions of the same length will be represented by the same netCDF-3 dimension.

NetCDF-3 does not support strings. The netCDF-3 backend stores an N-dimensional HARP variable of type string as an (N+1)-dimensional netCDF-3 variable of type NC_CHAR. The length of the introduced dimension equals the length of the longest string, or 1 if the length of the longest string is zero. Shorter strings are padded will null-termination characters.

Of course, netCDF-3 dimensions need to be defined for the introduced dimensions. This is handled in the same way as for independent dimensions, by appending the length to the name of the dimension. The name and the length are separated by an underscore. The name used for these introduced dimensions is ‘string’. For example, if the longest string has a length of 10, a netCDF-3 dimension named ‘string_10’ would be defined. String dimensions of the same length will be represented by the same netCDF-3 dimension.

To summarize, HARP dimensions are mapped to netCDF-3 dimensions as follows:

HARP dimension type

netCDF-3 dimension name

time

time

latitude

latitude

longitude

longitude

vertical

vertical

spectral

spectral

independent

independent_<length>

N/A

string_<length>

Note that even though the time dimension is conceptually considered appendable, this dimension is not stored as an actual appendable dimension in netCDF-3. Products are read/written from/to files in full and are only modified in memory. The appendable aspect is only relevant for tools such as plotting routines that combine the data from a series of HARP products in order to provide plots/statistics for a whole dataset (and thus, where data from different files will have to be concatenated). Storing data in a netCDF-3 file using an actual appendable dimension (using the netCDF-3 definition of appendable dimension) will have a slightly lower read/write performance compared to having all dimensions fixed.