NCL Script to Get MODIS Latitude/Longitude

The NCAR Command Language (NCL) is a great software in processing and visualizing data in geosciences. If you haven’t installed it yet, go here.

NCL handles many types of data such as NetCDF and HDF. More importantly, the interface to read these files is the same. MATLAB also handles both data sets, however, it has a different set of interface to query different file formats. That’s what I like the most in NCL.

MODIS comes in HDF format. However, the latitude and longitude information is not stored in the data set. Apparently some products also included the lat/lon information, but some products like MOD11A1 or MOD13A2 do not save the lat/lon information. But it is easy and fast to compute the latitude and longitude. You just need to know (1) vertical tile number, (2) horizontal tile number, (3) line Number, and (4) Sample Number. Line number is the row number of the data (latitude) and sample number is the column number of the data (longitude). Both of them can be a floating point.

I needed to generate these lat/lon information to plot some MODIS data and also perform some interpolation. Thus, I ended writing an ncl script to do that. Here is the interface to the script.

procedure MOD2LL( nv,


  • nv is the vertical tile number,
  • nh is the horizontal tile number,
  • LineN is the line Number,
  • SampleN is the sample number,
  • np is the number of points in the tile, for example 1200 for 1km resolution products,
  • Lat would store the latitude,
  • and Lon would store the longitude.

Both Lat and Lon have the same dimensions as of LineN and SampleN. All input variables must be provided as floating point, even the tile numbers.

here is the sample output using this function and NCL to generate the plot for surface temperature.
MODIS - H08V05 - DoY:162

If you are interested in the script download it for free by clicking here.

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