For the first time, I am using NetCDF data files containing daily data about soil moisture at a global level.

I want to be able to obtain monthly mean value of soil moisture for each grid cell.

There is one NetCDF file for each day, and each file contains four bands. I only need the first band which contains the data I want.

Using QGIS 1.8, I encounter the following problems:

1. Loading the rasters

When I want to load the 31 rasters related to January (example), I can select the 31 files, but then, I have to select the band I am interested in for each layer, one by one. Is there a way to load all of them, but automatically select the band I want?

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2. Converting the layers

The data comes in a floating number format. I detected some issues when it comes to sum values. However, when I convert the layer to a .tiff raster, it seems to transform the value into an integer. This is what I want, but GDAL doesn't want to batch convert all the files into .tiff, either because of the file names of because of the multiband issue. Is there a way to batch convert NetCDF files into .tiff?

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3. Batch summing the layers

Finally, even if I have the layer in .tiff format, I wonder if there is an easier way to sum all the values than by using RasterCalculator. Is there a tool than batch sums up rasters within a folder? Also, I noticed that I cannot use RasterCalculator directly on the NetCDF layers because of the file names. If the solution is on this trail, is there a way to batch change the name of a layer within a NetCDF file?

2 Answers 2


1. Loading the raster

Batch convert with gdal_translate the daily soil moisture NetCDF files into GDAL VRT format specifying the band you want to use. Example (band 1):

gdal_translate -of VRT -b 1 netcdf:inputfile.nc:variable_name outputfile.vrt

2. Converting the layers

Batch convert VRTs into GTiff format always with gdal_translate, if you really need it. Example:

gdal_translate -ot Int32 inputfile.vrt outputfile.tif

3. Batch summing the layers

Is there a tool than batch sums up rasters within a folder?

Use gdal_calc.py. Example:

gdal_calc.py -A input1.tif -B input2.tif --outfile=result.tif --calc="A+B"

Is there a way to batch change the name of a layer within a NetCDF file?

If you use the VRT format, you can name the layers as you want.

  • Thanks for the answer! I was exploring the gdal_translate function at this very moment. Now, I am able to choose the variable I want to convert, however, I don't know how to do it for all the files within a directory. For instance, if I have 31 NetCDF files in my folder, how can I ask gdal_translate to convert each file to VRT with only the variable I want?
    – Damien
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 14:39
  • You need a FOR cycle based on a variable: FOR /L %variable IN (start,step,end) DO command [command-parameters] Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 15:01
  • Thanks for the tip. I must confess I'm a newbie in this kind of stuff. For what I understand, I should write the loop in a .bat file and execute it using the windows Shell. Am I right? Also, I read a bit in the doc, and I came out with this line of code: FOR /R C:\Users\ddeltenre\Desktop\Muddyareas\2005\1_January\ %inputfile IN (*.nc) DO gdal_translate -of VRT -b 1 netcdf:%inputfile.nc:sm %inputfile.vrt However, when I execute, I have error messages saying that some variables or strings are unexpected. Where am I wrong?
    – Damien
    Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 8:48
  • %inputfile is for use on command lines only. It should be substituted with %%inputfile when used in batch files. Then FOR /R loops through files in subfolders, are you sure? IMHO you should type FOR %%inputfile IN (C:\Users\ddeltenre\Desktop\Muddyareas\2005\1_January\*.nc) DO ... Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 8:57
  • Ok, I adapted the command using %% and I replaced %%inputfile by %%g. Now, I think the syntax is correct because the program tries to do something. However, I obtain the following error: "gdal_translate is not recognized as an internal or external command operable program or batch file". How do I reach the GDAL functions that are installed within QGIS?
    – Damien
    Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 9:10

The NetCDF Operators (http://nco.sourceforge.net/nco.html) have the ncra or ncea programs which can average a set of your daily netcdf files into a monthly average.

ncra file201301*.nc mean201301.nc

ncwa can also sum or integrate across the a file http://nco.sourceforge.net/nco.html#Normalization-and-Integration but you might need to concatenate the dailys into a month to use it

ncrcat daily201301*.nc month201301.nc
ncwa -N month201301.nc sum201301.nc  # don't normalize the sum

You can change the layers/variables in the netcdf files with http://nco.sourceforge.net/nco.html#ncrename-netCDF-Renamer like:

ncrename -v badname,bettername myfilename.nc

The NetCDF operators are pretty fast tools for doing set-wise math on NetCDF files.

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