NASA Ames Format

The NASA Ames Format for Data Exchange, often referred to as NASA Ames Format, grew out of NASA aircraft campaigns and was first formalised at the Ames Research Centre, California, during the 1987 Stratosphere Troposphere Exchange Project (STEP), when uniform rules to record data were needed to facilitate the data exchange between the participants and allow shared use of a minimised amount of software to analyse and display different datasets. The issue was that the adopted data format should meet the following requirements: it had to be portable (readable on any machine by any programming language); it had to be self-describing (that is, the data had to include an attachment containing all the information needed to read, understand and interpret them – thus ensuring the reader's autonomy); it had to be readable by humans (to retain the benefit of its self-description!).

The first and third requirements implied the adoption of a text format (namely ASCII). The second condition was met by including in each data file a header containing the descriptive information (metadata).

Very well suited to field campaigns involving several teams that need to share their observations, the NASA Ames Format is not well adapted to very voluminous datasets. In this case, although less portable, a binary format is recommended.

Any set of functions of 1 to 4 variables can be recorded using the NASA Ames format, which makes it particularly suitable for atmospheric datasets, whether modelled or observed. Some NASA Ames file format indices are better adapted to airborne platforms (balloons, aircraft). 



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