2.3. Naming Conventions

Variable, dimension and attribute names should begin with a letter and be composed of letters, digits, and underscores. Note that this is in conformance with the COARDS conventions, but is more restrictive than the netCDF interface which allows use of the hyphen character. The netCDF interface also allows leading underscores in names, but the NUG states that this is reserved for system use.

Case is significant in netCDF names, but it is recommended that names should not be distinguished purely by case, i.e., if case is disregarded, no two names should be the same. It is also recommended that names should be obviously meaningful, if possible, as this renders the file more effectively self-describing.

This convention does not standardize any variable or dimension names. Attribute names and their contents, where standardized, are given in English in this document and should appear in English in conforming netCDF files for the sake of portability. Languages other than English are permitted for variables, dimensions, and non-standardized attributes. The content of some standardized attributes are string values that are not standardized, and thus are not required to be in English. For example, a description of what a variable represents may be given in a non-English language using the long_name attribute (see Section 3.2, “Long Name”) whose contents are not standardized, but a description given by the standard_name attribute (see Section 3.3, “Standard Name”) must be taken from the standard name table which is in English.