A Dataset is an object created using cml.load_dataset(name, arg1, arg2=..., ...) with the appropriate name and arguments, which provides access to a clearly well-defined dataset: these data have been defined and curated by somebody providing code along with the data. It also provides metadata and additional functionalities.

  • The name is a string that uniquely identifies the dataset.

  • The argument(s) arg1 and keyword argument(s) arg2 can be used to specify a subset of the dataset.

  • The data can be accessed using methods such as to_xarray() or to_pandas() or other.

  • Relevant metadata are attached directly to the dataset to provides additional information such as an URL, a citation, licence, etc.

  • Additional functionalities: When working on data, we are often writing code to transform, preprocess, adapt the data to our needs. While it may be very nice to understand deeply to deep magic under the hood, this process could be very time-consuming. Once somebody else did the hard work of preparing the data for a given purpose and designing relevant functions to process it, their code can be integrated and made available to others through a CliMetLab dataset plugin. The Dataset object is an instance of a Python class in which the plugin maintainers/users can share additional code.


Dataset objects differ from data Source objects, as Datasets refer to a given set of data (such as “the 2m temperature on Europe in 2015”, while Sources are more generic such as “url”).

CliMetLab has build-in datasets (as examples) and most of the datasets are available as plugins (non-exhaustive list of CliMetLab plugins).

How to load a dataset?

The relevant plugin must be installed first, using pip.

pip install climetlab-demo-dataset

This ensures that the dataset can be loaded with climetlab.load_dataset().

>>> import climetlab as cml
>>> ds = cml.load_dataset("demo-dataset")

The first argument is the name of the dataset. It is used to find the relevant plugin and class to use. Other arguments are defined by the plugin maintainer and are documented in the plugin documentation (see List of CliMetLab plugins).

The Dataset object provides methods to access and use its data such as to_xarray() or to_pandas() or to_numpy() (there are other methods that can be used to access data from a Dataset).

>>> ds.to_xarray() # for gridded data
>>> ds.to_pandas() # for non-gridded data
>>> ds.to_numpy() # When the data is a n-dimensional array.
>>> ds.to_tfrecord() # Experimental


The name of the python package for a CliMetLab plugin usually starts with “climetlab-“.


The plugin name does not necessarily match the dataset name, and one plugin can provide several datasets. As an example, the plugin climetlab-s2s-ai-challenge provides the datasets s2s-ai-challenge-training-input and s2s-ai-challenge-training-output:

>>> !pip install climetlab-s2s-ai-challenge
>>> climetlab.load_dataset("s2s-ai-challenge-training-input", ...)
>>> climetlab.load_dataset("s2s-ai-challenge-training-output", ...)

Xarray for gridded data

Gridded data typically are field data such as temperature or wind from climate or weather models or satellite images.

>>> import climetlab as cml
>>> ds = cml.load_dataset("demo-dataset")
>>> ds.to_xarray()
Dimensions:    (latitude: 181, longitude: 360)
  * longitude  (longitude) float64 -180.0 -179.0 -178.0 ... 177.0 178.0 179.0
  * latitude   (latitude) float64 90.0 89.0 88.0 87.0 ... -88.0 -89.0 -90.0
Data variables:
    t2m        (latitude, longitude) float64 273.1 273.3 273.5 ... 250.7 250.6

Pandas for non-gridded data

None-gridded data typically is tabular non-structured data such as observations. It often includes a column for the latitude and longitude of the data.

>>> import climetlab as cml
>>> ds = cml.load_dataset("dataset-name", **options)
>>> ds.to_pandas()

Metadata attached to a dataset

Metadata attached to a dataset include the following.

home_page: A link to the home page related to the dataset.

licence: A link to the licence of the dataset.

documentation: A link to the documentation related to the dataset.

citation: A citation related to the dataset.

terms_of_use: A text or link to the terms of use of the data.

>>> import climetlab as cml
>>> ds = cml.load_dataset("demo-dataset")
>>> ds.home_page
>>> ds.documentation
'Generates a dummy temperature field'

Best practices


When sharing a python notebook, it is a good practice to add !pip install climetlab-... at the top of the notebook. If the package is not installed, CliMetLab fails with a NameError exception.

>>> # if the package climetlab-demo-dataset is not installed
>>> import climetlab as cml
>>> ds = cml.load_dataset("demo-dataset")
NameError: Cannot find dataset 'demo-dataset' (values are: ...),
>>> !pip install climetlab_demo_dataset --quiet
>>> import climetlab as cml
>>> ds = cml.load_dataset("demo-dataset")

There is no need to import the plugin package to enable loading the dataset:

>>> import climetlab_demo_dataset  # Not needed