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Convert Sigma Space Micro Pulse Lidar (MPL) data files to NetCDF
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Convert Sigma Space Micro Pulse Lidar (MPL) data files to NetCDF.

mpl2nc is a Python program for converting binary MPL files to NetCDF4. The converted variables closely follow those in the binary files. See the Micro Pulse LiDAR System Software Manual for description of the original format and variables.

The program uses Python 2.7 and can run on any operating system with Python 2.7 and the netCDF4 Python package installed.

Note: The current release is beta – feature-complete but not tested comprehensively yet.


mpl2nc [-h] [-v] <input> <output>

Optional arguments:

  • -h – show help message and exit
  • -v – show program's version number and exit

Positional arguments:

  • input – input file (mpl)
  • output – output file (NetCDF)


Install the required software:

  • Python 2.7 (recommended Anaconda/Python 2.7 on Windows)
  • numpy Python package
  • netCDF4 Python package

numpy and netCDF4 can be installed with pip if available in your Python distribution:

pip install numpy netCDF4

To install mpl2nc with pip:

pip install mpl2nc

Optionally, to install from the source distribution:

python install

You can also run the script mpl2nc directly without installation.


1D (profile)

  • ad_data_bad_flag, A/D data bad flag – 0: A/D data good, 1: A/D data probably out of sync. Energy monitor collection is not exactly aligned with MCS shots.
  • azimuth_angle, azimuth angle (degrees) – Azimuth angle of scanner.
  • background_average, background average – Background Average for Channel #1.
  • background_average_2, background average (channel 2) – Background Average for Channel #2.
  • background_stddev, background standard deviation – Background Standard Deviation for channel #1.
  • background_stddev_2, background standard deviation (channel 2) – Background Standard Deviation for Channel #2.
  • bin_time, bin time (s) – Bin width (100, 200, or 500 nanoseconds).
  • compass_degrees, compass degrees (degrees) – Compass degrees (currently unused).
  • data_file_version, data file version – Version of the file format.
  • elevation_angle, elevation angle (degrees) – Elevation angle of scanner.
  • energy_monitor, energy monitor – Mean of the Energy Monitor readings * 1000.
  • first_background_bin, first background bin – Used primarily for MiniMPL (will always be 0 for normal MPL as background is collected pre-trigger).
  • first_data_bin, first data bin – Bin # of the first return data.
  • gps_altitude, GPS altitude (m) – GPS altitude (optional).
  • gps_latitude, GPS latitude (degrees north) – GPS latitude (optional).
  • gps_longitude, GPS longitude (degrees east) – GPS longitude (optional).
  • mcs_mode, MCS mode – MCS mode register.
  • num_background_bins, number of background bins (count) – Number of background bins following First Background Bin.
  • number_channels, number of channels (count) – MCS Channels collected. Either 1 or 2.
  • number_data_bins, number of data bins (count) – Number of data bins (not background) following First Data Bin.
  • polarization_voltage_0, polarization voltage 0 – Not used.
  • polarization_voltage_1, polarization voltage 1 – Not used.
  • range_calibration, range calibration (m) – Default is 0; will indicate range calibration offset measured for particular unit.
  • scan_scenario_flags, scan scenario flags – 0: No scan scenario used, 1: Scan scenario used].
  • shots_sum, shots sum (count) – Number of laser shots collected.
  • sync_pulses_seen_per_second, sync pulses seen per second (count s-1) – MiniMPL Only; indicates average number of laser pulses seen to validate if laser is operating correctly.
  • system_type, system type – 0: Normal MPL, 1: MiniMPL.
  • temp_0, A/D #0 mean – Mean of the A/D #0 readings * 100.
  • temp_1, A/D #1 mean – Mean of the A/D #1 readings * 100.
  • temp_2, A/D #2 mean – Mean of the A/D #2 readings * 100.
  • temp_3, A/D #3 mean – Mean of the A/D #3 readings * 100.
  • temp_4, A/D #4 mean – Mean of the A/D #4 readings * 100.
  • time, time (seconds since 1970-01-01 00:00:00) – Record collection time.
  • time_utc, UTC time (ISO 8601) – Record collection time (UTC).
  • trigger_frequency, trigger frequency (Hz) – Laser fire rate (usually 2500).
  • unit, unit – Unique number for each data system.
  • version, version – Software version of the EXE that created this file. If the SigmaMPL.exe version is 3.00 then this value would be 300.
  • ws_barometric_pressure, barometric pressure (hPa) – Weather station barometric pressure.
  • ws_dewpoint, dewpoint temperature (degree C) – Weather station dewpoint.
  • ws_inside_humidity, inside humidity (percent) – Weather station inside humidity.
  • ws_inside_temp, inside temperature (degree C) – Weather station inside temperature.
  • ws_outside_humidity, outside humidity (percent) – Weather station outside humidity.
  • ws_outside_temp, outside temperature (degree C) – Weather station outside temperature.
  • ws_rain_rate, rain rate (mm h-1) – Weather station rain rate.
  • ws_used, weather station used – 0: Weather station not used, 1: Weather station used.
  • ws_wind_direction, wind direction (degree) – Weather station wind direction.
  • ws_wind_speed, wind speed (km h-1) – Weather station wind speed.

2D (profile × range)

  • channel_1, channel #1 data (count us-1) – For MPL systems without POL-FS option, the return signal array is stored here. For MPL systems with the POL-FS option, the cross-polarized return signal array is stored here.
  • channel_2, channel #2 data (count us-1) – Used only with POL-FS option. The co-polarized return signal array is stored here.


  • created – UTC time in ISO 8601 format when the file was created.
  • software – Software identification (mpl2nc (
  • version – mpl2nc version.


This software is distributed under the terms of the MIT License (see in the source distribution).

Release Notes

Version numbering follows Semantic Versioning.

1.1.1 (2018-04-19)

  • Fixed type conversion bug on Windows

1.1.0 (2018-04-18)

  • Added global file attributes.
  • Fixed syntax error in the script.

1.0.0 (2018-04-18)

  • Initial version.


For support or reporting bugs contact Peter Kuma <>.

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