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What is the NetCDF?

The Network Common Data Form, or netCDF, is an interface to a library of data access functions for storing and retrieving data in the form of arrays. An array is an n-dimensional (where n is 0, 1, 2, ...) rectangular structure containing items which all have the same data type (e.g., 8-bit character, 32-bit integer). A scalar (simple single value) is a 0-dimensional array.

NetCDF is an abstraction that supports a view of data as a collection of self-describing, portable objects that can be accessed through a simple interface. Array values may be accessed directly, without knowing details of how the data are stored. Auxiliary information about the data, such as what units are used, may be stored with the data. Generic utilities and application programs can access netCDF datasets and transform, combine, analyze, or display specified fields of the data.

The development of such applications has led to improved accessibility of data and improved re-usability of software for array-oriented data management, analysis, and display. The netCDF software implements an abstract data type, which means that all operations to access and manipulate data in a netCDF dataset must use only the set of functions provided by the interface. The representation of the data is hidden from applications that use the interface, so that how the data are stored could be changed without affecting existing programs. The physical representation of netCDF data is designed to be independent of the computer on which the data were written.

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