Chapter 6.  Labels and Alternative Coordinates

Table of Contents

6.1. Labels
6.1.1. Geographic Regions
6.2. Alternative Coordinates

6.1. Labels

The previous section contained several examples in which measurements from scattered sites were grouped using a single dimension. Coordinates of the site locations can be provided using auxiliary coordinate variables, but it is often desirable to identify measurement sites by name, or some other unique string.

The list of string identifiers plays an analogous role to a coordinate variable, hence we have chosen to use the coordinates attribute to provide the name of the variable that contains the string array. An application processing the variables listed in the coordinates attribute can recognize a labeled axis by checking whether or not a given variable contains character data.

Example 6.1. Several parcel trajectories

Consider a set of ocean floats that follow parcel trajectories and simultaneously measure temperature at fixed times. We wish to identify the floats by name. The temperature data is a function of parcel (i.e., float) and time. The location of each sample is also a function of parcel and time, so the position information is stored in a multidimensional coordinate variable.

  parcel = 15 ; // number of trajectories
  times = 20 ;
  max_len_parcel_name = 64 ; // max length of trajectory name
  float temperature(parcel,times) ;
    temperature:coordinates = "parcel_name lat lon" ;
  float times(times) ;
  char parcel_name(parcel,max_len_parcel_name) ;
  float lon(parcel,times) ;
  float lat(parcel,times) ;

6.1.1. Geographic Regions

When data is representative of geographic regions which can be identified by names but which have complex boundaries that cannot practically be specified using longitude and latitude boundary coordinates, a labeled axis should be used to identify the regions. We recommend that the names be chosen from the list of standardized region names whenever possible. To indicate that the label values are standardized the variable that contains the labels must be given the standard_name attribute with the value region.

Example 6.2. Northward heat transport in Atlantic Ocean

Suppose we have data representing northward heat transport across a set of zonal slices in the Atlantic Ocean. Note that the standard names to describe this quantity do not include location information. That is provided by the latitude coordinate and the labeled axis:

  times = 20 ;
  lat = 5
  lbl = 1 ;
  strlen = 64 ;
  float n_heat_transport(time,lat,lbl);
  double time(time) ;
    time:long_name = "time" ;
    time:units = "days since 1990-1-1 0:0:0" ;
  float lat(lat) ;
    lat:long_name = "latitude" ;
    lat:units = "degrees_north" ;
  char geo_region(lbl,strlen) ;
  geo_region = "atlantic_ocean" ;
  lat = 10., 20., 30., 40., 50. ;