PROGRAM text_to_obs

Text file to DART converter


If you have observations in spreadsheet or column format, in text, with a single line per observation, then the files this directory are a template for how to convert these observations into a format suitable for DART use.

The workflow is usually:

  • read in the needed information about each observation - location, time, data value, observation type - from a data source (usually a file)

  • call a series of DART library routines to construct a derived type that contains all the information about a single observation

  • call another set of DART library routines to put it into a time-sorted series

  • repeat the last 2 steps until all observations are processed

  • finally, call a write subroutine that writes out the entire series to a file in a format that DART can read in

It is not recommended that you try to mimic the ascii file format by other means; the format is subject to change and the library routines will continue to be supported even if the physical format changes.

If your input data is in some kind of format like netCDF or HDF, then one of the other converters (e.g. the MADIS ones for netCDF) might be a better starting place for adapting code.

Data sources

This part is up to you. For each observation you will need a location, a data value, a type, a time, and some kind of error estimate. The error estimate can be hardcoded in the converter if they are not available in the input data. See below for more details on selecting an appropriate error value.


The text_to_obs.f90 file is the source for the main converter program. Look at the source code where it reads the example data file. You will almost certainly need to change the “read” statement to match your data format. The example code reads each text line into a character buffer and then reads from that buffer to parse up the data items.

To compile and test, go into the work subdirectory and run the quickbuild.csh script to build the converter and a couple of general purpose utilities. advance_time helps with calendar and time computations, and the obs_sequence_tool manipulates DART observation files once they have been created.

To change the observation types, look in the DART/observations/forward_operators directory. If you can find an “obs_def_XXX_mod.f90” file with an appropriate set of observation types, change the ‘use’ lines in the converter source to include those types. Then add that filename in the input.nml namelist file to the &preprocess_nml namelist, the ‘input_files’ variable. Multiple files can be listed. Then run quickbuild.csh again. It remakes the table of supported observation types before trying to recompile the source code.

An example script for converting batches of files is in the shell_scripts directory. A tiny example data file is in the data directory. These are NOT intended to be turnkey scripts; they will certainly need to be customized for your use. There are comments at the top of the script saying what options they include, and should be commented enough to indicate where changes will be likely to need to be made.

Decisions you might need to make

See the discussion in the Creating an obs_seq file from real observations page about what options are available for the things you need to specify. These include setting a time, specifying an expected error, setting a location, and an observation type.