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netCDF Primer   | Software   | netCDF Online   | WOCE Conventions

What is netCDF (network Common Data Form)?

NetCDF (network Common Data Form) is an interface for array-oriented data access and a library that provides an implementation of the interface. The netCDF library also defines a machine-independent format for representing scientific data. Together, the interface, library, and format support the creation, access, and sharing of scientific data. The netCDF software was developed at the Unidata Program Center in Boulder, Colorado.

NetCDF data is:

  • Self-Describing. A netCDF file includes information about the data it contains.
  • Architecture-independent. A netCDF file is represented in a form that can be accessed by computers with different ways of storing integers, characters, and floating-point numbers.
  • Direct-access. A small subset of a large dataset may be accessed efficiently, without first reading through all the preceding data.
  • Appendable. Data can be appended to a netCDF dataset along one dimension without copying the dataset or redefining its structure. The structure of a netCDF dataset can be changed, though this sometimes causes the dataset to be copied.
  • Sharable. One writer and multiple readers may simultaneously access the same netCDF file.