Chapter 7.  Data Representative of Cells

Table of Contents

7.1. Cell Boundaries
7.2. Cell Measures
7.3. Cell Methods
7.4. Climatological Statistics

When gridded data does not represent the point values of a field but instead represents some characteristic of the field within cells of finite "volume," a complete description of the variable should include metadata that describes the domain or extent of each cell, and the characteristic of the field that the cell values represent. It is possible for a single data value to be the result of an operation whose domain is a disjoint set of cells. This is true for many types of climatological averages, for example, the mean January temperature for the years 1970-2000. The methods that we present below for describing cells only provides an association of a grid point with a single cell, not with a collection of cells. However, climatological statistics are of such importance that we provide special methods for describing their associated computational domains in Section 7.4, “Climatological Statistics”.

7.1. Cell Boundaries

To represent cells we add the attribute bounds to the appropriate coordinate variable(s). The value of bounds is the name of the variable that contains the vertices of the cell boundaries. We refer to this type of variable as a "boundary variable." A boundary variable will have one more dimension than its associated coordinate or auxiliary coordinate variable. The additional dimension should be the most rapidly varying one, and its size is the maximum number of cell vertices. Since a boundary variable is considered to be part of a coordinate variable's metadata, it is not necessary to provide it with attributes such as long_name and units.

Note that the boundary variable for a set of N contiguous intervals is an array of shape (N,2). Although in this case there will be a duplication of the boundary coordinates between adjacent intervals, this representation has the advantage that it is general enough to handle, without modification, non-contiguous intervals, as well as intervals on an axis using the unlimited dimension.

Applications that process cell boundary data often times need to determine whether or not adjacent cells share an edge. In order to facilitate this type of processing the following restrictions are placed on the data in boundary variables.

Bounds for 1-D coordinate variables

For a coordinate variable such as lat(lat) with associated boundary variable latbnd(x,2), the interval endpoints must be ordered consistently with the associated coordinate, e.g., for an increasing coordinate, lat(1) > lat(0) implies latbnd(i,1) >= latbnd(i,0) for all i

If adjacent intervals are contiguous, the shared endpoint must be represented indentically in each instance where it occurs in the boundary variable. For example, if the intervals that contain grid points lat(i) and lat(i+1) are contiguous, then latbnd(i+1,0) = latbnd(i,1).

Bounds for 2-D coordinate variables with 4-sided cells

In the case where the horizontal grid is described by two-dimensional auxiliary coordinate variables in latitude lat(n,m) and longitude lon(n,m), and the associated cells are four-sided, then the boundary variables are given in the form latbnd(n,m,4) and lonbnd(n,m,4), where the trailing index runs over the four vertices of the cells. Let us call the side of cell (j,i) facing cell (j,i-1) the "i-1" side, the side facing cell (j,i+1) the "i+1" side, and similarly for "j-1" and "j+1". Then we can refer to the vertex formed by sides i-1 and j-1 as (j-1,i-1). With this notation, the four vertices are indexed as follows: 0=(j-1,i-1), 1=(j-1,i+1), 2=(j+1,i+1), 3=(j+1,i-1).

If i-j-upward is a right-handed coordinate system (like lon-lat-upward), this ordering means the vertices will be traversed anticlockwise on the lon-lat surface seen from above. If i-j-upward is left-handed, they will be traversed clockwise on the lon-lat surface.

The bounds can be used to decide whether cells are contiguous via the following relationships. In these equations the variable bnd is used generically to represent either the latitude or longitude boundary variable.

For 0 < j < n and 0 < i < m,
	If cells (j,i) and (j,i+1) are contiguous, then
	If cells (j,i) and (j+1,i) are contiguous, then	
		bnd(j,i,3)=bnd(j+1,i,0) and bnd(j,i,2)=bnd(j+1,i,1)

Bounds for multi-dimensional coordinate variables with p-sided cells

In all other cases, the bounds should be dimensioned (...,n,p), where (...,n) are the dimensions of the auxiliary coordinate variables, and p the number of vertices of the cells. The vertices must be traversed anticlockwise in the lon-lat plane as viewed from above. The starting vertex is not specified.

Example 7.1.  Cells on a latitude axis

  lat = 64;
  nv = 2;    // number of vertices
  float lat(lat);
    lat:long_name = "latitude";
    lat:units = "degrees_north";
    lat:bounds = "lat_bnds";
  float lat_bnds(lat,nv);

The boundary variable lat_bnds associates a latitude gridpoint i with the interval whose boundaries are lat_bnds(i,0) and lat_bnds(i,1). The gridpoint location, lat(i), should be contained within this interval.

For rectangular grids, two-dimensional cells can be expressed as Cartesian products of one-dimensional cells of the type in the preceding example. However for non-rectangular grids a "rectangular" cell will in general require specifying all four vertices for each cell.

Example 7.2.  Cells in a non-rectangular grid

  imax = 128;
  jmax = 64;
  nv = 4;
  float lat(jmax,imax);
    lat:long_name = "latitude";
    lat:units = "degrees_north";
    lat:bounds = "lat_bnds";
  float lon(jmax,imax);
    lon:long_name = "longitude";
    lon:units = "degrees_east";
    lon:bounds = "lon_bnds";
  float lat_bnds(jmax,imax,nv);
  float lon_bnds(jmax,imax,nv);

The boundary variables lat_bnds and lon_bnds associate a gridpoint (j,i) with the cell determined by the vertices (lat_bnds(j,i,n),lon_bnds(j,i,n)), n=0,..,3. The gridpoint location, (lat(j,i),lon(j,i)), should be contained within this region.