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Joaquim edited this page Jul 25, 2017 · 3 revisions


Access to GMT from MATLAB is accomplished via a MEX function (also called gmt), which offers further access to all of GMT’s ~140 modules as well as fundamental import, formatting, and export of GMT data objects. Internally, the GMT/MATLAB C API defines six high-level data structures that handle input and output of data via GMT modules. These are data tables (representing one or more sets of points, lines, or polygons), grids (2-D equidistant data matrices), raster images (with 1–4 color bands), raw PostScript code, text tables (free-form text/data mixed records) and color palette tables (i.e., color maps). Correspondingly, we have defined six data structures that we use at the interface between GMT and MATLAB via the gmt MEX function. The GMT/MATLAB API is responsible for translating between the GMT structures and native MATLAB structures, which are:

  • Segments: GMT considers point, line, and polygon data to be organized in one or more segments in a data table. Modules that return segments uses a native MATLAB segment structure that holds the segment data, which may be either numerical, text, or both; it also holds a segment header string which GMT uses to pass metadata. Thus, GMT modules returning segments will typically produce arrays of segments and you may pass these to any other module expecting points, lines, or polygons or use them directly in MATLAB. Since a matrix is the fundamental data type in MATLAB you can also pass any data type matrix directly to GMT modules as well. Consequently, it is very easy to pass data from MATLAB into GMT modules that process data tables as well as to receive data segments from GMT modules that process and produce data tables as output. The toolbox also provides a function for concatenating segments into a single segment.

  • Grids: Many tools consider equidistant grids a particular data type and numerous file formats exist for saving such data. Because GMT relies on GDAL we are able to read and write almost all such formats in addition to a native netCDF4 format that complies with both the COARDS and CF netCDF conventions. We have designed a native MATLAB grid structure that holds header information from the GMT grid as well as the data matrix representing the gridded values. These structures may be passed to GMT modules that expect grids and are returned from GMT modules that produce such grids. In addition, we supply a function to convert a MATLAB matrix and some metadata into a grid structure.

  • Images: The raster image shares many characteristics with the grid structure except the bytes representing each node reflect gray shade, color bands (1, 3, or 4 for indexed, RGB and RGBA, respectively), and possibly transparency values. We therefore represent images in another native MATLAB structure that among other items contains three components: The image matrix, a color map (present for indexed images only), and an alpha matrix (for images specifying transparency on a per-pixel level). As for grids, a wrapper function creating the correct structure is available.

  • Color palettes: GMT uses its flexible Color Palette Table (CPT) format to describe how the color (or pattern) of symbols, lines, polygons or grids should vary as a function of a state variable. In MATLAB, this information is provided in another MATLAB structure that holds the color map as well as an optional alpha array for transparency values. Like grids, these structures may be passed to GMT modules that expect CPTs and will be returned from GMT modules that normally would produce CPT files. The content of the CPT can also be used to change color maps in MATLAB.

  • PostScript: While most users of the GMT/MATLAB toolbox are unlikely to manipulate PostScript directly, the API allows for the passing of PostScript via another data structure.

  • Text data: Because of their variable record lengths and mixed numeric/text contents, we chose to represent text tables by data segments containing a cell array. All GMT modules expecting text tables will use such segments to communicate with MATLAB. If the leading columns of data records contain numerical data, then those components will be decoded into a data matrix instead. You may also pass text data to GMT using text cell arrays, and if only a single text record is involved you can pass that string as is.

The MATLAB structures designed for interfacing with GMT are described in the following tables.

Table 1. The dataset segment structure and its attributes

member Description
data Matrix with segment data
text Cell array with any text after data coordinates
header String with segment header
comment Cell array with any dataset comments [empty after first segment]
proj4 Projection string in PROJ4 syntax (optional)
wkt Projection string in WKT syntax (optional)

Table 2. The Grid structure and its attributes

member Description
z Grid matrix
x Vector with x-coordinates
y Vector with y-coordinates
range Vector with range [x_min x_max y_min y_max z_min z_max]
inc Vector with grid spacing [x_inc y_inc]
registration Registration type: 0 = Grid registration; 1 = Pixel registration
nodata The value used to indicate ‘no data’
title Title (optional)
comment Comment (optional)
command Command used to create the grid (optional)
datatype Data type: ‘float' or 'double'
x_unit Units of x-axis (optional)
y_unit Units of y-axis (optional)
z_unit Units of z-axis (optional)
proj4 Projection string in PROJ4 syntax (optional)
wkt Projection string in WKT syntax (optional)

Table 3. The Image structure and its attributes

member Description
image Image matrix
x Vector with x-coordinates
y [Vector with y-coordinates
range Vector with range [x_min x_max y_min y_max z_min z_max]
inc Vector with grid spacing [x_inc y_inc]
registration Registration type: 0 = Grid registration; 1 = Pixel registration
nodata The value used to indicate ‘no data’
title Title (optional)
comment Comment (optional)
command Command used to create the image (optional)
datatype datatype: 'uint8' or 'int8'
x_unit Units of x -axis (optional)
y_unit Units of y-axis (optional)
z_unit Units of z-axis (optional)
colormap Color palette structure
alpha Array with alpha (transparency) values (empty if no alpha)
layout A four chars code describing the memory layout
proj4 Projection string in PROJ4 syntax (optional)
wkt Projection string in WKT syntax (optional)

Table 4. The Color palette table structure and its attributes

member Description
colormap Matrix with R/G/B values for all color intervals
alpha Vector with alpha (transparency) values
range Matrix with [z_low z_high] for each color interval
minmax Vector with [z_min z_max] for entire range
bfn Matrix with R/G/B for back-, fore-ground, and NaNs
depth Color depth as 1 (black/white), 8 (gray) or 24 (colors)
hinge Hinge separating two parts of the CPT [NaN means no hinge]
cpt Full GMT cpt array for communicating with GMT
model Color model used: 'rgb', 'hsv', or 'cmyk'
comment Cell array with any dataset comments [empty after first segment]

Table 5. The PostScript structure and its attributes

member Description
postscript Text array with all PostScript code
length Number of bytes in the string
mode Status mode: 1 = Has header, 2 = Has trailer. 3 = Has both.
comment Comment (optional)

Interaction between GMT and MATLAB

The interaction is done via the MEX-function gmt. This function is invoked with the syntax

[output objects] = gmt(modulename, optionstring[, input objects]);

where modulename is a string with the name of a GMT module (e.g., 'surface', 'grdimage', 'psmeca', or even a custom extension), while the optionstring is a text string with the options passed to this module. If the module requires data inputs from the MATLAB environment, then these are provided as optional comma-separated arguments following the option string. Should the module produce output(s) then these are captured in standard MATLAB parlance by assigning the result of gmt to one or more comma-separated variables. Some modules do not require an option string or input objects, or neither, and some modules do not produce any output objects.

In addition, it can also use two i/o modules that are irrelevant on the command line: the read and write modules. These modules allow the toolbox to import and export any of the GMT data types to and from external files. For instance, to import a grid from the file we run

G = gmt('read', '-Tg');

We use the -T option to specify grid (g), image (i), PostScript (p), color palette (c), dataset (d) or textset (t). Results kept in MATLAB can be written out at any time via the write module, e.g., to save the grid Z to a file we use

gmt('write', '', Z);

Because GMT data tables often contain headers followed by many segments, each with their individual segment headers, it is best to read such data using the read module since native MATLAB import via load will choke on such headers.

How input and output are assigned

Each GMT module knows what its primary input and output objects should be. Some modules only produce output (e.g., psbasemap makes a basemap plot with axes annotations) while other modules only expect input and do not return any items back to MATLAB (e.g., the write module writes the data object it is given to a file). Typically, (i.e., on the command line) users must carefully specify the input filenames and sometimes give these via a module option. Because users of the toolbox will want to provide input from data already in memory and likewise wish to assign results to variables, the syntax between the command line and toolbox commands necessarily must differ. For example, here is a basic GMT command that reads the time-series raw_data.txt and filters it using a 15-unit full-width (6 sigma) median filter:

gmt filter1d raw_data.txt –Fm15 > filtered_data.txt

Here, the input file is given on the command line but input could instead come via the shell’s standard input stream via piping. Most GMT modules that write tables will write these to the shell’s output stream and users will typically redirect these streams to a file (as in our example) or pipe the output into another process. When using the GMT/MATLAB toolbox there are no shell redirections available. Instead, we wish to pass data to and from the MATLAB environment. If we assume that the content in raw_data.txt exists in a MATLAB array named raw_data (perhaps we ran ‘load raw_data.txt’ or used the gmt read module) and we wish to receive the filtered result as a segment array named filtered, we would run the toolbox command

filtered = gmt('filter1d', '-Fm15', raw_data);

This illustrates the main difference between command line and toolbox usage: Instead of redirecting output to a file we return it to an internal object (here, a segment array) using standard MATLAB assignments of output.

For data types where piping and redirection of output streams are inappropriate (including most grid file formats) the GMT modules use option flags to specify where grids should be written. Consider a GMT command that reads (x, y, z) triplets from the file depths.txt and produces an equidistant grid using a Green’s function-based spline-in-tension gridding routine:

gmt greenspline depths.txt -R-50/300/200/600 -I5 -D1 -St0.3

Here, the result of gridding Cartesian data (-D1) within the specified region (an equidistant lattice from x from -50 to 300 and y from 200 to 600, both with increments of 5) using moderately tensioned cubic splines (-St0.3) is written to the netCDF file When using the GMT/MATLAB toolbox we do not want to write a file but wish to receive the resulting grid as a new MATLAB variable. Again, assuming we already loaded in the input data, the equivalent toolbox command is

bathy = gmt('greenspline', '-R-50/300/200/600 -I5 -D1 -St0.3', depths);

Note that -G is no longer specified among the options. In this case the toolbox uses the GMT API to determine that the primary output of greenspline is a grid and that this is specified via the -G option. If no such option is given (or given without specifying a filename), then we instead return the grid via memory, provided a left-side assignment is specified. GMT only allows this behavior when called via an external API such as this toolbox: Not specifying the -G option on the command line would result in an error message. However, it is perfectly fine to specify the option in the toolbox – it simply means you are saving the result to a file instead of returning it to MATLAB.

Some GMT modules can produce more than one output (here called a secondary outputs) or can read more than one input type (i.e., secondary inputs). Secondary inputs or outputs are always specified by explicit module options on the command line, e.g., '-Fpolygon.txt'. In these cases, the toolbox enforces the following rules: When a secondary input is passed as an object then we must specify the corresponding option flag but provide no file argument (e.g., just '-F' in the above case). Likewise, for secondary output we supply the option flag and add additional objects to the left-hand side of the assignment. All secondary items, whether input or output, must appear after all primary items, and if more than one secondary item is given then their order must match the order of the corresponding options in optionstring.

Here are two examples contrasting the GMT command line versus GMT/MATLAB toolbox usage. In the first example we wish to determine all the data points in the file all_points.txt that happen to be located inside the polygon specified in the file polygon.txt. On the command line this would be achieved by

gmt select points.txt -Fpolygon.txt > points_inside.txt

while in the toolbox (assuming the points and polygon already reside in memory) we would run

inside = gmt('select', '-F', points, polygon);

Here, the points object must be listed first since it is the primary data expected.

Our second example considers the joining of line segments into closed polygons. We wish to create one file with all closed polygons and another file with any remaining disjointed lines. Not expecting perfection, we allow segment end-points closer than 0.1 units to be connected. On the command line we would run

gmt connect all_segments.txt -Cclosed.txt -T0.1 > rest.txt

where all_segments.txt are the input lines, closed.txt is the file that will hold closed polygons made from the relevant lines, while any remaining lines (i.e., open polygons) are written to standard output and redirected to the file rest.txt. Equivalent toolbox usage would be

all = gmt('read', '-Td all_segments.txt');
[rest, closed] = gmt('connect', '-T0.1 -C', all);

Note the primary output (here rest) must be listed before any secondary outputs (here closed) in the left-hand side of the assignment.

So far, the toolbox has been able to understand where inputs and outputs objects should be inserted, provided we follow the rules introduced above. However, there are two situations where more information must be provided. The first situation involves two GMT modules that allow complete freedom in how arguments are passed. These are gmtmath and grdmath, our reverse polish notation calculators for tables and grids, respectively. While the command-line versions require placement of arguments in the right order among the desired operators, the toolbox necessarily expects all inputs at the end of the function call. Hence we must assist the toolbox command by placing markers where the input arguments should be used; the marker we chose is the question mark (?). We will demonstrate this need using an example of grdmath. Imagine that we have created two separate grids: contains an evaluation of the radial z = bei(r) Kelvin-Bessel function (not available in MATLAB) while contains a cylindrical undulation in the x-direction. We create these two grids on the command line by

gmt grdmath -R-4/4/-4/4 -I256+ X Y HYPOT KEI =
gmt grdmath -R -I256+ X COS =

Later, we decide we need pi plus the product of these two grids, so we compute

gmt grdmath MUL PI ADD =

In the toolbox the first two commands are straightforward:

kei = gmt('grdmath', '-R-4/4/-4/4 -I256+ X Y HYPOT KEI');
C   = gmt('grdmath', '-R -I256+ X COS');

but when time comes to perform the final calculation we cannot simply do

answer = gmt('grdmath', 'MUL PI ADD', kei, C);

since grdmath would not know where kei and C should be put in the context of the operators MUL and ADD. We could probably teach grdmath to discover the only possible solution since the MUL operator requires two operands but none are listed on the command line. The logical choice then is to take kei and C as operands. However, in the general case it may not be possible to determine a unique layout, but more importantly it is simply too confusing to separate all operators from their operands (other than constants) as we would lose track of the mathematical operation we are performing. For this reason, we will assist the module by inserting question marks where we wish the module to use the next unused input object in the list. Hence, the valid toolbox command actually becomes

answer = gmt ('grdmath', '? ? MUL PI ADD', kei, C);

Of course, all these calculations could have been done at once with no input objects but often we reuse results in different contexts and then the markers are required. The second situation arises if you wish to use a grid as argument to the -R option (i.e., to set the current region to that of the grid). On the command line this may look like

gmt pscoast -JM5i –P -Baf -Gred >

However, in the toolbox we cannot simply supply -R with no argument since that is already an established shorthand for selecting the previously specified region. The solution is to supply –R?. Assuming our grid is called europe then the toolbox command would become

map = gmt('pscoast', '-R? -JM5i -P -Baf -Gred', europe);