[CF-metadata] Expanding the standard_name metadata

Schultz, Martin m.schultz at fz-juelich.de
Mon Sep 10 02:33:16 MDT 2012

Dear all,

     last week, we had a rather successful workshop on "Metadata for air quality and atmospheric composition" in Dublin. It was nice to see that the community (i.e. those present) seemed to agree without much discussion, that ISO 19115 (-1) is the way to go for discovery metadata, while CF is the way forward for descriptive metadata to be stored in (usually) netcdf data files. The main discussions at the workshop centered around ISO issues, but there was one interesting point that came up with respect to CF standard_names and their relation to controlled vocabulary:

    We did have discussions on this list earlier about a more grammar-oriented approach, and this was also brought up at our workshop again, mainly in light of the "threat" that the atmospheric composition group will soon begin to flood this email list with hundreds of new names in order to add additional chemical compounds. As we have seen with the problem of standard_names for emissions, this is stretching the limits of the current ways to operate and publish new standard_names. I don't want to argue against the concept of one "flat" master list (we have been through this and there are good reasons for sticking to this concept), but I would like to stipulate a discussion about adding more "metadata" to the standard_name table in order to better link it to other controlled vocabulary lists and avoid confusing inconsistencies, for example in the naming of chemical compounds. Specifically, I would like to propose two "conditional" tags compound_name and compound_codelist in the standard_name list which shall appear for all standard_names having to do with chemical compounds. Example:

-<entry id="atmosphere_mass_content_of_carbon_monoxide">
   <compound_name>Carbon monoxide</compound_name>
    <canonical_units>kg m-2</canonical_units>
   <description>"Content" indicates a quantity per unit area. The "atmosphere content" of a quantity refers to the vertical integral from the surface to the top of the atmosphere. For the content between specified levels in the atmosphere, standard names including content_of_atmosphere_layer are used. The chemical formula of carbon monoxide is CO.</description>

    In a way, this may be seen as duplication of information, but it would really help to tie ends together, because it is practically impossible to parse the standard_names in order to extract such information (due to the lack of a strict grammar). There may be other tags which could be useful to add, and one will have to decide about the pros and cons in each case. However, for compound names I would see a clear need arising now.

Best regards,


PD Dr. Martin G. Schultz
IEK-8, Forschungszentrum Jülich
D-52425 Jülich
Ph: +49 2461 61 2831

Forschungszentrum Juelich GmbH
52425 Juelich
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Karsten Beneke (stellv. Vorsitzender), Prof. Dr.-Ing. Harald Bolt,
Prof. Dr. Sebastian M. Schmidt

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