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Data Formats and Codes

Below is a table of the principal NCEI data storage (or data output) formats and codes. Some may be quite old, but are listed here because data can still be retrieved in these formats. This list covers only data stored in the NCEI ocean archive databases; it does not include formats for all NCEI (and former NODC) data collections on CD-ROM, DVD, or other various online projects. CD-ROM/DVD datasets and online projects are described in documentation files included with each data product.

NCEI netCDF templates

Based off of Attribute Conventions for Dataset Discovery (ACDD), and Climate and Forecast (CF) Conventions. Please use the decision tree to identify which template works for your data. Then select the appropriate template:

Codes used to read World Ocean Database data

Includes Institute codes, Country codes, Ship codes, etc.

NCEI Vocabulary Lists

XML lists are available for these vocabularies:

NODC Code Lists

Text lists of old NODC codes:


Spreadsheet style format and conventions used by the World Ocean Database. This format is often found in the Ocean Archive System for older data sets that were converted from paper documents.

Taxonomic Code for Biological Species

NCEI no longer maintains this code, but is still available on the ITIS website. We also have information about the old Taxonomic Code CD-ROM that is now out-of-date.

Database / Data File Name Record Layout Codes
Oceanographic Profiles and Buoy Data
World Ocean Database WOD05 WOD05 Codes
NOAA Marine Environmental Buoy Data F291  
Universal Bathythermograph Output Format UBT UBT Codes
High-Resolution CTD/STD Output Format F022 F022 Codes
Station Data II Output Format SD2 SD2 Codes
Oceanographic Profile Data - older format P3  
Sea Level Data
Hourly F184 F184 Codes
Daily F185 F185 Codes
Monthly F186 F186 Codes
Principal MULDARS Data Formats*
Current Meter Data (Resultants) F005 N/A
Current Meter Data (Components) F015 F015 Codes
Ocean Drifter Data F156 F156 Codes
Surface Current Data System SCUDS N/A
Water Physics and Chemistry F004 F004 Codes
Marine Chemistry F069 N/A
Marine Toxic Substances and Pollutants F144 F144 Codes
Phytoplankton F028 Taxonomic Code
Zooplankton F124 F124 Codes
Primary Productivity 1 F029 F029 Codes
Primary Productivity 2 F049 F049 Codes
Inter-tidal Organisms and Habitats F030 F030 Codes
Marine Bird Sightings, Ship/Aircraft F033 F033 Codes
Inter-tidal/Sub-tidal Organisms and Habitats F100 F100 Codes
Benthic Organisms F132 F132 Codes
Fish/Shell-fish Surveys F123 F123 Codes
Marine Mammal Sighting and Census F127 F127 Codes
Wind Measurements from Buoys F101 F101 Codes
Pressure Gauge Data F017 F017 Codes
* MULDARS (MULti-Discipline Archives Retrieval System)