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Formatting a custom dataset for pastclim

This guide is aimed at formatting data in such a way that they can be used with pastclim. pastclim is designed to extract data from netcdf files, a format commonly used for storing climate reconstructions. netcdf files have a number of advantages, as they can store compressed information, as well as allowing access to only the data required (e.g. extracting only the time steps or location of interest without reading all the data in memory). The expected format for pastclim requires that all time steps of a given variable be stored within a single netcdf file. How variables are combined (or not) is then flexible: you can have a separate file for each variable, collate everything within a single file, or create multiple files each including a number of variables. The time variable should be in years since 1950 (i.e. with negative integers indicating the past). There are a number of command line tools as well as R libraries (e.g. cdo, gdal, terra) that can help creating and editing netcdf files.

An example: the Trace21k-CHELSEA

Here we provide a simple example of how to format such a dataset in R. We will use a version of the Trace21k dataset, downscaled to 30 arcsecs using the CHELSEA algorithm(available from this website). The data are stored as geoTIFF files, one file per time step per variable. First, we need to collate all the files for a given variable (we will use bio01 as an example) within a single netcdf file. As the original files are large, we will illustrate here how do to that for only a few time steps which were aggregated to 3x3 degrees to keep files sizes small.

We start by translating each geoTIFF into a netcdf file. The files have the prefix CHELSA_TraCE21k_bio01_-xxx_V1.0.small.tif, where xxx is the number of the time step. We will only use 3 time step for illustrative purposes.

We store all the files in a single directory, and create a spatRaster from a list of the files in that directory:

tiffs_path <- system.file("extdata/CHELSA_bio01", package = "pastclim")
list_of_tiffs <- file.path(tiffs_path, dir(tiffs_path))
bio01 <- terra::rast(list_of_tiffs)

NOTE: terra has changed the way it handles time when reading from netcdf. The dev version of terra can more easily format netcdf files correctly, but this vignette presents a number of workarounds needed for the version on CRAN

Now we need to set the time axis of the raster (in this case, reconstructions are every 100 years), and generate some user friendly names to layers in the raster:

#> Loading required package: terra
#> terra 1.7.80
time_bp(bio01) <- c(0, -100, -200)
names(bio01) <- paste("bio01", terra::time(bio01), sep = "_")

Now we save the data as a nc file (we will use the temporary directory)

nc_name <- file.path(tempdir(), "")
  filename = nc_name, varname = "bio01",
  compression = 9, overwrite = TRUE

We can now read in our custom netcdf file with pastclim.

custom_series <- region_series(
  bio_variables = "bio01",
  dataset = "custom",
  path_to_nc = nc_name
#> class       : SpatRasterDataset 
#> subdatasets : 1 
#> dimensions  : 174, 360 (nrow, ncol)
#> nlyr        : 3 
#> resolution  : 1, 1  (x, y)
#> extent      : -180.0001, 179.9999, -90.00014, 83.99986  (xmin, xmax, ymin, ymax)
#> coord. ref. : lon/lat WGS 84 (EPSG:4326) 
#> source(s)   : 
#> names       : bio01

As expected, there is only one variable (“bio01”) and 3 time steps (nlyr). We can get the times of those time steps with:

get_time_bp_steps(dataset = "custom", path_to_nc = nc_name)
#> [1]    0 -100 -200

And we can slice the series and plot a given time point:

climate_100 <- slice_region_series(custom_series, time_bp = -100)

Note that these reconstructions include the ocean and the ice sheets, and it would be much better to remove them as they are not needed for most ecological/archaeological studies (and it allows for smaller files).

Making the data available to others

Once you have created suitably formatted netcdf files that can be used as custom datasets in pastclim, you can add those data officially to the package, and thus make them available to others. Here are the necessary steps:

  1. Put your files in a freely available repository.

  2. Update the table used by pastclim to store information about available datasets. This table is found in “./data-raw/data_files/dataset_list_included.csv”.

#>   variable ncvar dataset monthly                 file_name download_path
#> 1    bio01  BIO1 Example   FALSE              
#> 2    bio10 BIO10 Example   FALSE              
#>   download_function file_name_orig download_path_orig version
#> 1                                                       1.3.0
#> 2                                                       1.3.0
#>                             long_name      abbreviated_name time_frame
#> 1             annual mean temperature           ann. mean T       year
#> 2 mean temperature of warmest quarter mean T of warmest qtr       year
#>             units  units_exp dataset_list_v
#> 1 degrees Celsius *degree*C*          1.3.9
#> 2 degrees Celsius *degree*C*

This includes the following fields:

variable: the variable name used by pastclim

ncvar: the variable name within the nc file (it can be the same as variable)

dataset: the name of the dataset.

monthly: boolean on whether the variable is monthly.

file_name: the name of the file for that variable.

download_path: the URL to download the file.

donwload_function: for datasets which can be easily converted by the user into a valid netcdf, it is possibly to leave download_path empty, and to create an internal function that downloads and converts the files. For an example, see the WorldClim datasets.

file_name_orig: the name of the original file(s) used to create the nc dataset.

download_path_orig: the path of those original files.

version: the version of the dataset that you created

long_name: the long name for the variable

abbreviated_name: an abbreviated version of long_name (used for plot labels)

time_frame: either year or the appropriate month

units: units for the variable, to be displayed in a plain text table

units_exp: units formatted to be included in expression when creating plot labels

  1. Once you have added lines detailing the variables in your dataset, run the script “./raw-data/make_data/dataset_list_included.R” to store that information into the appropriate dataset in pastclim.

  2. Provide information on the new dataset in the file “./R/dataset_docs”, using roxygen2 syntax. Make sure that you provide an appropriate reference for the original data, as it is important that users can refer back to the original source.

  3. Make a Pull Request on GitHub.