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How to Contribute

Please note the obs4MIPs data specifications are currently being adapted to align with the new CMIP6 data standards.  Additionally, CMOR3 has been upgraded to accomodate observational data and examples are being prepared.   If you are interested in contributing new observational products while these upgrades are taking place, please contact

This document provides information that:

  • Enables potential data contributors to determine if their data product can, with additional work (mainly data formatting and documentation), meet the criteria for being included in obs4MIPs

  • Describes the current status of how datasets should be formatted to meet the obs4MIPs data standards

  • Explains the current process of how new obs4MIPs datasets get published on the ESGF and thereby made accessable from the obs4MIPs CoG site

  • Summarizes the complete process - from dataset proposal to ESGF publication - for contributing an obs4MIPs dataset

Criteria for observational data to be included in obs4MIPs

The requirements for a dataset to be published under the obs4MIPs project are summarized here:

  • is a peer reviewed dataset, with measurement source, construction methodology, calibration/validation and uncertainty described in one or more peer reviewed publications.

  • is a variable that is a match to a model variable in the CMIP protocol (either from CMIP5 in standard_output.xls or standard_output.pdf or to the CMIP6 tables in preparation)

  • has been converted to the specified obs4MIPs data structure and format (see below)

  • has an accompanying technical note that conforms to the obs4MIPs technical note template. Technical notes will be hosted on the ESGF so that they appear along side the datasets to which they pertain.

  • is version controlled, i.e. any given complete instance of the dataset must have a unique version identifier.

Also expected:

  • has documented use for climate model evaluation, preferably in peer-reviewed publications

  • has a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) issued for the technical note

  • has a DOI issued for the dataset

Some observational datasets that are not strictly a match with a field in the CMIP5 or CMIP6 protocol may be suitable for obs4MIPs if there are straightforward methods that can be made available for comparing them with the model output available through CMIP.  Some potential examples include total column observables, where CMIP output only requests the vertically resolved values, or a variable requiring the application of an operational operator to account for vertical weighting functions associated with satellite sounding techniques.  Please see the most recent Call For Datasets for a description of the types of datasets being requested for obs4MIPs and note that reanalysis datasets suitable for model evaluation are now under ana4MIPs, a sister project to obs4MIPs. If you have questions regarding the processes and resources outlined below, please contact us.

Preparing datasets and publishing them on ESGF

In order to host an obs4MIPs dataset on the ESGF it must be formatted according to the obs4MIPs requirements and published in the catalog of an ESGF node so that it can be searchable and accessable. Data contributors should follow the process below that lists the steps to take for contributing to obs4MIPs.  WDAC task team members can assist in identifying a suitable ESGF node to host the dataset.

It is currently recommended that obs4MIPs data be prepared using the Climate Model Output Rewriter (CMOR) to ensure that the data can be properly searched through the ESGF. The data conventions for CMIP6 are expected to be finalized in May 2016, and after this is completed the obs4MIPs data conventions will be updated to be consistent with CMIP6.  A new version of CMOR (CMOR3) is currently being tested and will be used by modeling groups to process their data for submission to CMIP6. The same utility will also enable the processing of observational data for obs4MIPs, with an "ezCMOR" option to facilitate the conversion.  A working version of these tools for obs4MIPs is expected in June of 2016.  An obs4MIPs "convention validator" is being developed to test whether or not the obs4MIPs conventions are properly implemented in a particular dataset. Ultimately, this may enable the CMOR requirement to be relaxed for obs4MIPs.

This information on obs4MIPs dataset prepartion and publication to ESGF was last updated March 31, 2016.  Check back here for regular updates.


The process for submitting and publishing datasets to obs4MIPs

(including the roles and coordination between the data provider and the WDAC Task Team)


Data Provider

Read the information on this page and submit an

obs4MIPs Dataset Proposal

(click on the text to access the proposal form)
Task Team

Task Team (TT) Co-chairs ensure form is complete and iterate with proposer if necessary.   Once complete, circulate among TT members for feedback and to identify a member to take the lead on the dataset.

TT to consider appropriateness of proposed dateset based on the following criteria:


  • Quantitative comparisions with CMIP5 simulations is possible either via a "one-to-one" match of the proposed variable with a CMIP model output variable or via a quantity that can be derived from the model output.
  • the dataset has a peer-reviewed publication history of some kind


  • Evidence of previous documented use for global or regional model evaluation (e.g., a peer-reviewed publication).
  • Is of sufficient duration, density and "quality" for comparison to model simulations

If the REQUIRED conditions are met and one or more asprects of the STRONGLY DESIRED are met, inform the data provider and encourage them to prepare the dataset and technical note accordingly.

Otherwise, notify the data provideer that the proposed dataset doe not currently meet the obs4MIPs minimum requirements, and discuss what would be needed to meet those requirements.

Data Provider

Read obs4MIPs dataset requirements, obs4MIPs global attribute requirements and the obs4MIPs technical note template and then:

Use CMOR to format the dataset to meet the obs4MIPs specifications

Develop a technical note for the dataset

Work with the TT if necessary to identify an ESGF node to host the dataset, and establish a pathway to publish the data on the ESGF 

Seek guideance from the TT where needed on the above items

Submit the dataset and technical note to the TT for review

Task Team

TT to consider "readiness" of proposed dateset based on the following criteria:

1) Does the dataset meet the technical requirements for obs4MIPs? 

2) Has a technical note for the dataset been completed based on the technical note template?   TT members to review, provide feedback and concur on technical note readiness, with at least one member - or external scientist if necessary - having subject matter expertise.

3)  Is there an identified ESGF node for archving?  TT may need to help with this.

TT lead for the dataset to iterate with the data provider to make the dateset ready for publication.  

When conditions 1), 2) and 3) are met the dataset is ready for including in obs4MIPs.

Data Provider

Work with the ESGF node staff that will host the dataset and technical note to get them published on ESGF.

Ensure the dataset and technical note have been published properly on the ESGF.  This can be done by searching for the dataset on the obs4MIPs CoG site, and verifying that both the dataset and technical note are visible, retrievable, and have not be corrupted during the publication process.


Additional resources and information needed to submit and publish datasets to obs4MIPs

Once the CMIP6 protocols are finalized, the dataset and global attributes requirements will be revised to coordinate with CMIP6

Last Update: April 24, 2017, 3:59 p.m. by Peter Gleckler
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