[idvusers] Fwd: [thredds] GRIB variable name changes in 4.3

Hi All:
Please read the following message from thredds email list. As you know, the IDV relies on the netCDF-Java library, and the coming changes on netCDF-Java 4.3 would have huge impacts (all bundles with grib data need to be redone; all preference tables need to be updated; etc.) on the IDV. We need to have your feedback here.


Thanks,


IDV developer team

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [thredds] GRIB variable name changes in 4.3
Date: Mon, 27 Feb 2012 11:17:23 -0700
From: John Caron <caron@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: Java NetCDF <netcdf-java@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, THREDDS community <thredds@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

To all:

The CDM / netCDF-Java library version 4.3 (and also TDS version 4.3) is
considering a radical change in the way that GRIB variables are named.
Instead of nice human readable names like

   float Temperature(time=1, lat=361, lon=720);

they are now like

   float VAR_0-0-0_L6_I6_Hour_S194(time=1, lat=361, lon=720);

with "human readable names" in the long_name:

     :long_name = "Temperature (6_Hour Average) @ Maximum wind level";

The reasons for this change are that the "nice human readable names"
come from external GRIB tables, that is, the names are not in the files
themselves. GRIB table parameter names have no requirement to be unique
nor simple nor unchanging, i.e. they have no requirement to be suitable
as netCDF variable names. Maintainers of GRIB tables often make minor
changes to GRIB names, correcting typos or otherwise improving the
readability of the name. In some cases, the GRIB names are completely
changed.  When the CDM starts to use new versions of the tables, the
variable names can and do change. Since calls to access data use the
name of the variable, many things break if the name changes.

Any GRIB to netCDF translation software is in the position of either
hand-maintaining the tables to prevent names from changing (and fixing
duplicates or unsuitable names), or doing something else.  Hand
maintaining GRIB tables is not a viable option due to resource
constraints. The something else is to give variables unique names based
only on the information actually in the file. The NCL package has
adopted a similar scheme:

http://www.ncl.ucar.edu/Document/Manuals/Ref_Manual/NclFormatSupport.shtml#GRIB


More background on this problem is here:

http://www.unidata.ucar.edu/staff/caron/papers/GRIBarchivals.pdf

Another aspect of this problem is that errors were found in version 4.2
with GRIB tables, with handling GRIB time intervals and ensemble data,
as well as with the algorithm for generating names when multiple
variables from the same parameter are in the same file. About 1 in 5
variable names (in the NCEP IDD data) need to change to fix these
problems. In reviewing how variable names are created, and how GRIB
tables are handled, these other problems became clear. Rather than
fixing the problem piecemeal,  we are trying to make one big change all
at once, then do our best to not let this happen again.

The main impact this will have is probably on:
  1) scripts or IDV bundles that have a GRIB variable name in them;
hopefully a one-time change will fix this.
  2) interactive applications that are built on top of the CDM. For
GRIB, users will need to see the long_name, not the variable name, to
know what they want. However, the CDM presents a uniform interface for
all files, not just GRIB, so the application can't assume that the
long_name is even present. So the application should present both the
variable name and the long_name (if it exists) to the user when
selecting variables.

We think that this change, though painful, is a necessary way forward,
but we want to get input from users, and especially application
developers. The latest 4.3 snapshot has these changes, please try it out
and let us know what you think, and how it will affect you. Post your
comments to these email lists so the entire discussion can be public.

thanks

John, Ethan

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