Articles | Volume 10, issue 12
Methods for assessment of models
19 Dec 2017
Methods for assessment of models |  | 19 Dec 2017

A data model of the Climate and Forecast metadata conventions (CF-1.6) with a software implementation (cf-python v2.1)

David Hassell, Jonathan Gregory, Jon Blower, Bryan N. Lawrence, and Karl E. Taylor

Abstract. The CF (Climate and Forecast) metadata conventions are designed to promote the creation, processing, and sharing of climate and forecasting data using Network Common Data Form (netCDF) files and libraries. The CF conventions provide a description of the physical meaning of data and of their spatial and temporal properties, but they depend on the netCDF file encoding which can currently only be fully understood and interpreted by someone familiar with the rules and relationships specified in the conventions documentation. To aid in development of CF-compliant software and to capture with a minimal set of elements all of the information contained in the CF conventions, we propose a formal data model for CF which is independent of netCDF and describes all possible CF-compliant data. Because such data will often be analysed and visualised using software based on other data models, we compare our CF data model with the ISO 19123 coverage model, the Open Geospatial Consortium CF netCDF standard, and the Unidata Common Data Model. To demonstrate that this CF data model can in fact be implemented, we present cf-python, a Python software library that conforms to the model and can manipulate any CF-compliant dataset.

Short summary
We present a formal data model for version 1.6 of the CF (Climate and Forecast) metadata conventions that provide a description of the physical meaning of geoscientific data and their spatial and temporal properties. We describe the CF conventions and how they lead to our CF data model, and compare it other data models for storing data and metadata. We present cf-python version 2.1: a software implementation of the CF data model capable of manipulating any CF-compliant dataset.