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PolyGeo suggested within the comments on this question (How to extract specific information from GRIB files?) that a question about a Python library for working with GRIB data may sometimes be off-topic because GRIB data is not necessarily spatial. In that sense it was likened to un-georeferenced JPG files which are another raster format.

Are questions about working with data in the GRIB format always on-topic?

  • All the comments on this and the linked question have now been deleted, for some reason, so unfortunately now there's very limited context. – alphabetasoup Dec 19 '15 at 22:52
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If GRIB data is always spatial then questions about reading GRIB data would seem to be on-topic. I have not worked with GRIB data and made my suggestion today when trying to moderate some questions about GRIB that required intervention due to community flagging. Once some Python code was provided, the spatial aspect of the Python library being used to access GRIB data became evident.

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I think that they are. I work for a company specialising in oceanography and meteorology. Much of our data is in either NetCDF or GRIB, all of it is spatial. They are excellent formats for n-dimensional data, and I've yet to see a GRIB file without a lat/lon grid.

An important piece of evidence in support is that it is listed as a Raster Format for the Geospatial Data Abstraction Library (GDAL):

However, it is not fully supported. (I suspect this is due to it being pretty niche rather than it not being particularly less spatial than other formats.)

Very few questions tagged are currently closed, many have answers. Therefore, there are enough people on GIS.SE who have expertise with GRIB data, and it further follows that this is probably because it is indeed a spatial data format.

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Since I in some way initiated this discussion, I feel like explaining why I did it and giving my 2 cents about this particular tag in GIS SE.

I have to say that I am almost completely GIS-ignorant. I do know a bit about it, I even set up PostGIS and Open Street Map ready databases myself, but I never used, analyzed or manipulated that data. I am a Python programmer and my purpose in the company is related to RESTful API development.

Just recently we started to gather world-wide weather-related data and for the first time in my life I came across GRIB files. It took me a while to figure out what those files represent and how to use them. After few days of "research", I still feel like I know almost nothing about those, just because I feel like each and every web site dedicated to this topic is just terrible. I don't even understand how people can browse those pages and find actual information, especially if you are into professional meteorological terms for the first time in your life. Starting from the visual representation (10 different CSS styles on same domain???), tons of broken links, etc, etc...

In my mind, GRIB files are just bunch of data related to planet Earth and different weather conditions across the globe. GIS data however is (in my mind) exactly the same, except from the weather part but with some other specific additions. That is my basic, simple (and ignorant) way of looking at those two things. Since both are based strictly on Earth-related data, in my simplistic mind they are very much related. I agree that I might be completely wrong about it, but, after few days of being unable to clarify in my head the most simple things about GRIB files, I decided to look for an answer in GIS SE community. Main reason for this was being unable to find it in "official documentation" (if you can call it that way), various forums, IRC, googling for it or anywhere else. This community was seriously my final chance to get some proper information about it.

Before I asked my first question, I did look for "GRIB" and "Python" tags here. Seeing that there was some active discussion about both, I felt like this is a good place to ask. I extremely appreciate amount of helping in each and every SE community and I was incredibly happy to see that people are discussing about GRIB files here but I was very surprised to see the amount of rejecting any help regarding it.

Back to the topic...

  • Is it spatial data? I would say yes.
  • Is it GIS-related data? I would say yes (at least looking at the acronym here - Geographic Information System - GRIB files contain nothing but "geographic information weather data").
  • Is it off-topic? No. As alpha-beta-soup pointed out, you have to look at the bigger picture here. I can find lots of questions in this community which could be marked off-topic, but still are answered and never marked as a problematic by anyone.

GRIB files are also widely used by GIS community. Although I know almost nothing about those two combined together, extremely simple Google search told me that there are plenty of GIS-related websites explaining how to use GRIB data in GIS software:

For the sake of helping developers (and other people) with GRIB data, and especially because "official documentation" is almost unreadable, I vote for keeping this tag on-topic because I seriously feel that this might be the only place to get a proper answers about it.

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