CF Standard Names - Construction of Atmospheric Chemistry and Aerosol Terms

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Go back to Forum, Resources and Discussion on CF compliant Atmospheric Chemistry and Aerosol Names

This page provides our ideas on how to construct new names for chemistry and aerosols in the future.
For the standard_names actually proposed to the CF convention see Proposed Atmospheric Chemistry and Aerosol Names


  • first version 22 May 2006
  • updated 2 June 2006 Christiane Textor
  • updated 8 June 2006 Christiane Textor
  • updated 12 June 2006 Michael Schulz
  • updated 13 June 2006 Christiane Textor
  • updated 30 June 2006 Christiane Textor

Comments to ChristianeTextor or directly on our discussion page are highly welcome!

You can directly modify the tables here, all versions are stored under 'history'. However, in order to keep track of the changes, please send an email to ChristianeTextor.

The ideas in these table are based on work in the PRISM project (Peter van Velthoven) see PRISM Standard Name Tables, latest Version, V 1.3

Table 1 provides the name-components and terms to be used in constructing CF names for Atmospheric Chemistry and Aerosol purposes.

Tables 2 add a list of chemical and aerosol species to be used together with the name components given in table 1.

Tables 3 provide a list of most often used standard names, constructed solely from name components and species already mentioned in tables 1 and 2.

Table 1: Components to construct full CF standard names

Several types of Name-components exist: 1) Compartments; 2) Interface or Origin information; 3) Concentration/mixing ratio/column burden; 4) Fluxes; 5) Optical properties


  • all forcing variables are still missing
  • always provide also in_air = atmosphere (as opposed to ocean,soil) info in names?
  • how to distinguish ion - radicals, e.g. NO3 ?


  • articles and prepositions should be avoided
  • try to use SI units (e.g. not hours but seconds)
  • atmosphere_optical_thickness_due_to_X

is defined by CF, however: 1) very long name, 2) does not fit with cloud_optical_depth, 3) is there any opt. depth not in the atmosphere? therefore suggestion of this new name/alias"

Compartement explanation unit further remark
atmosphere atmosphere in all phases large-scale property, prefix
troposphere in troposphere in all phases large-scale property, prefix
stratosphere in stratosphere in all phases large-scale property, prefix
in_air in air locally measurable
in_cloudy_air in cloudy air locally measurable
in_clear_air in clear air, outside clouds locally measurable
in_cloudwater within cloud-water or cloud-ice locally measurable
in_rainwater within precipitating rain water locally measurable
in_sea_water in sea water locally measurable
Interface or Origin information
from_stratosphere origin in stratosphere
from_troposphere origin of tracer in troposphere
at_surface at surface level
at_tropopause tropopause level
at_top_of_atmosphere top of atmosphere level

Concentration/mixing ratio/column unit
content vertically integrated moles, mass oder number gases: mole/m2, aerosol mass: kg/m2, aerosol number: 1/m2
mole_fraction for gases mole/mole, 1
mass_concentration aerosols mass kg/m3
number_concentration aerosols number 1/m3

Fluxes [species-unit/second]
dry_deposition_flux_due_to_turbulence turbulent dry deposition different for aerosols masses/numbers and gases
dry_deposition_flux_due_to_sedimentation sedimentation/gravitational settling different for aerosols masses/numbers and gases
dry_deposition_flux dry deposition (dry=turdry??+seddry??) different for aerosols masses/numbers and gases
emission_flux emission different for aerosols and gases
chemical_gross_production chemical production rate? different for aerosols and gases
chemical_net_production net chemical production rate? different for aerosols and gases
chemical_destruction chemical destruction rate? different for aerosols and gases
gases G
emission_flux_of_G_at_surface mole/m2/s
dry_deposition_flux_of_G_at_surface mole/m2/s
wet_deposition_flux_of_G_at_surface mole/m2/s
chemical_gross_production_of_G_in_air 1/s=mole/mole/s
chemical_net_production_of_G_in_air 1/s=mole/mole/s
chemical_destruction_of_G_in_air 1/s=mole/mole/s
aerosols A
emission_flux_of_A_at_surface kg/m2/s
dry_deposition_flux_due_to_turbulence_of_A_at_surface kg/m2/s
dry_deposition_flux_due_to_sedimentation_of_A_at_surface kg/m2/s
dry_deposition_flux_of_A_at_surface kg/m2/s
wet_deposition_flux_of_A_at_surface kg/m2/s
chemical_gross_production_of_A_in_air kg/m3/s
chemical_net_production_of_A_in_air kg/m3/s
chemical_destruction_of_A_in_air kg/m3/s
Velocities |
dry_deposition_velocity_due_to_turbulence turbulent dry deposition velocity m/s
Optical properties / forcing
optical_depth_at_XX_nm aerosol optical depth at wavelength XX nm 1 equivalent to atmosphere_optical_thickness_due_to_X ?
Existing terms for Radiative Forcing forcing specified per species W/m2 to be used with species name (X_forcing)
Velocities |

flash_frequency_due_to_lightning flash frequency due to lightning 1/s=flashes/s
grid_box_area model grid box area m2

Table 2: Species names

Table 2.1: Chemicals

Gas Species
CF species_name Species Chemical formula Remarks
nitrogen_monooxide Nitrogen monooxide NO
hydrogen_peroxide Hydrogen peroxide H2O2
methane Methane CH4
carbon_monoxide Carbon monoxide CO
nitric_acid Nitric acid HNO3
methyl_hydrogen_peroxide Methyl hydrogen peroxide CH3O2H
formaldehyde Formaldehyde CH2O
peroxy_acetyl_nitrate Peroxy acetyl nitrate (PAN) CH3C(O)O2NO2
sulfur_dioxide Sulfur dioxide SO2
dimethyl_sulfide Dimethyl sulfide (DMS) ** CH3SCH3
ammonia Ammonia NH3
ammonium Ammonium NH4
methane_sulfonic_acid Methane sulfonic acid (MSA) CH3SO2OH
hydroperoxy_radical Hydroperoxy radical HO2
methyl_peroxy_radical Methyl peroxy radical CH3O2
hydroxyl_radical Hydroxyl radical (hydroxy radical) OH
nitrogen_dioxide Nitrogen dioxide NO2
nitrate_radical Nitrate radical NO3
dinitrogen_pentoxide Dinitrogen pentoxide N2O5
nitric_acid Nitric acid HNO3
peroxy_nitric_acid Peroxy nitric acid HNO4
peroxy_acetyl_radical Peroxy acetyl radical C2O3
oxygen_radical_in_1D_state Oxygen radical in the 1D (excited) state O(1-D)
ethane ethane C2H6
ethylene ethylene or ethene C2H4
acetylene acetylene C2H2
propane propane C3H8
propene propene C3H6
acetone acetone C3H6O
butane butane C4H10
methyl_glyoxal Methyl glyoxal CH3C(O)C(O)H
isoprene Isoprene, 2-methyl-1,3-butadiene C5H8
lumped species (modified CBMiv) Species
paraffinic_carbon_bonds paraffinic (alkanic) carbon bonds
olefinic_carbon_bonds olefinic (alkenic) carbon bonds
aldehydes_higher_than_2 acetaldehyde and higher aldehydes,
organic_peroxides lumped higher organic peroxides, ROOH
organic_nitrates lumped alkyl nitrates, organic nitrates, RNO3
secondary_organic_oxy_radical the secondary_organic_oxy_radical, ROR
alkyl_peroxy_radical alkyl peroxy radicals, XO2
intermediate_product_of_isoprene_oxidation XO2N (intermediate product of isoprene oxidation)
nox NOx=NO+NO2
hox HOx=OH+HO2

Table 2.2: Aerosols

Aerosol Species
CF species_name Species Chemical formula Remarks
aerosols extension _aerosol to distinguish from gases (e.g. NO3) radical in gas phase, from NO3 ion in aerosol
dust_aerosol dry aerosol dust
seasalt_aerosol dry aerosol seasalt
black carbon_aerosol dry aerosol black carbon BC
hydrophilic_black carbon_aerosol dry aerosol hydrophilic black carbon BC
hydrophobic_black carbon_aerosol dry aerosol hydrophobic black carbon BC
organic_carbon_aerosol_from_terpenes_as_particulate_organic_matter_aerosol dry aerosol organic carbon aerosol from terpenes ?
organic_carbon_as_particulate_organic_matter_aerosol dry aerosol organic carbon OC
hydrophilic_organic_carbon_as_particulate_organic_matter_aerosol dry aerosol hydrophilic organic carbon OC
hydrophobic_organic_carbon_as_particulate_organic_matter_aerosol dry aerosol hydrophobic organic carbon OC
sulfate_as_sulfate_aerosol dry aerosol sulfate SO4(2-) what is the cation?
nitrate_as_nitrate_aerosol dry aerosol nitrate NO3(-) what is the cation?
ammonium_as_ammonium_aerosol dry aerosol ammonium NH4(+)
ammonium_sulfate_aerosol dry aerosol ammonium sulfate (NH4)2SO4 do we need sulfate and ammonium sulfate?
aerosol dry aerosol total aerosol
aerosol water aerosol water
conversion_factor_OC_POM_aerosol conversion factor organic carbon to particulate organic carbon
PM10_aerosol particles of aerodynamic size of 10um or less
PM2p5_aerosol particles of aerodynamic size of 2.5um or less, fine fraction
PM1_aerosol particles of aerodynamic size of 1um or less
PM0p1_aerosol particles of aerodynamic size of 0.1um or less, ultrafine fraction
nucleation_mode_aerosol particles of aerodynamic size of 0.01um or less
Aitken_mode_aerosol particles of aerodynamic size between 0.01 and 0.1um
accumulation_mode_aerosol particles of aerodynamic size between 0.1 and 1um
coarse_aerosol particles of aerodynamic size between 2.5 and 10um, coarse fraction

Table 3: Future names

Table 3.1: Future names for chemicals

Proposed Standard names
CF Standard_name Canonical unit
gas phase species
mole_fraction_of_methane_in_air volume mixing ratio of methane, CH4 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_methyl_hydrogen_peroxide_in_air volume mixing ratio of methyl hydrogen peroxide, CH3O2H 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_dimethyl_sulfide_in_air volume mixing ratio of dimethyl sulfide, DMS, CH3SCH3 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_ammonia_in_air volume mixing ratio of ammonia, NH3 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_ammonium_in_air volume mixing ratio of ammonium, NH4 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_methane_sulfonic_acid_in_air volume mixing ratio of methane sulfonic acid, MSA, CH3SO2OH 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_methyl_peroxy_radical_in_air volume mixing ratio of the methyl peroxy radical, CH3O2 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_nitrate_radical_in_air volume mixing ratio of the nitrate radical, NO3 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_dinitrogen_pentoxide_in_air volume mixing ratio of dinitrogen pentoxide, N2O5 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_peroxy_nitric_acid_in_air volume mixing ratio of peroxy nitric acid, HNO4 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_peroxy_acetyl_radical_in_air volume mixing ratio of the peroxy acetyl radical, C2O3 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_oxygen_radical_in_1D_state_in_air volume mixing ratio of the oxygen radical in the 1D excited state, O(1D) 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_ethane_in_air volume mixing ratio of ethane, C2H6 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_ethene_in_air volume mixing ratio of ethene, C2H4 (aka ethylene) 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_acetylene_in_air volume mixing ratio of acetylene, C2H2 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_propane_in_air volume mixing ratio of propane, C3H8 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_propene_in_air volume mixing ratio of propene, C3H6 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_acetone_in_air volume mixing ratio of acetone, C3H6O 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_butane_in_air volume mixing ratio of butane, C4H10 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_methyl_glyoxal_in_air volume mixing ratio of methyl_glyoxal, CH3COCOH 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_isoprene_in_air volume mixing ratio of isoprene, C5H8 1 (mole/mole)
lumped species
mole_fraction_of_paraffinic_carbon_bonds_in_air volume mixing ratio of paraffinic carbon bonds 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_olefinic_carbon_bonds_in_air volume mixing ratio of olefinic carbon bonds 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_aldehydes_higher_than_2_in_air volume mixing ratio of aldehydes with more than one C atom, RCHO 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_organic_peroxides_in_air volume mixing ratio of lumped higher organic peroxides, ROOH 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_organic_nitrates_in_air volume mixing ratio of lumped alkyl nitrates, organic nitrates, RNO3 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_secondary_organic_oxy_radical_in_air volume mixing ratio of the secondary_organic_oxy_radical, ROR 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_alkyl_peroxy_radical_in_air volume mixing ratio of alkyl peroxy radicals, XO2 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_intermediate_product_of_isoprene_oxidation_in_air volume mixing ratio of XO2N (intermediate product of isoprene oxidation) 1 (mole/mole)
mole_fraction_of_hox_in_air volume mixing ratio of HOx=OH+HO2 1 (mole/mole)
gases: fluxes/productions/emissions
chemical_loss_of_sulfur_dioxide chemical loss rate of SO2 1/s=(mole/mole/s)

Table 3.2: Future names for aerosols

Proposed Standard names
mass_concentration_of_sulfate_as_sulfate_aerosol_in_air dry aerosol sulfate aerosol (SO4) kg/m3
mass_concentration_of_nitrate_as_nitrate_aerosol_in_air dry aerosol nitrate aerosol (NO3-) kg/m3
mass_concentration_of_ammonium_sulfate_aerosol_in_air dry ammoniumsulfate aerosol ((NH4)2SO4) kg/m3
mass_concentration_of_seasalt_aerosol_in_air dry seasalt aerosol kg/m3
mass_concentration_of_organic_carbon_aerosol_from_terpenes_as_particulate_organic_carbon_aerosol_in_air dry aerosol from terpenes kg/m3
mass_concentration_of_organic_carbon_as_particulate_organic_carbon_aerosol_in_air dry organic carbon aerosol kg/m3
mass_concentration_of_hydrophilic_organic_carbon_as_particulate_organic_carbon_aerosol_in_air dry hydrophilic organic carbon aerosol kg/m3
mass_concentration_of_hydrophobic_organic_carbon_as_particulate_organic_carbon_aerosol_in_air dry hydrophobic organic carbon aerosol kg/m3
mass_concentration_of_black_carbon_aerosol_in_air dry black carbon aerosol kg/m3
mass_concentration_of_hydrophilic_black_carbon_aerosol_in_air dry hydrophilic black carbon aerosol kg/m3
mass_concentration_of_hydrophobic_black_carbon_aerosol_in_air dry hydrophobic black carbon aerosol kg/m3
mass_concentration_of_dust_aerosol_in_air dry dust aerosol kg/m3
mass_concentration_of_aerosol_water aerosol water kg/m3
aerosols: fluxes/productions/emissions
dry_deposition_flux_of_sulfate_as_sulfate_aerosol_at_surface dry deposition of dry sulfate at the surface 2D kgS/m2/s
dry_deposition_flux_of_seasalt_at_surface dry deposition of dry seasalt at the surface 2D kg/m2/s
dry_deposition_flux_of_organic_carbon_as_particulate_organic_carbon_aerosol_at_surface dry deposition of dry organic carbon at the surface 2D kgC/m2/s
dry_deposition_flux_of_black_carbon_aerosol_at_surface dry deposition of dry black carbon at the surface 2D kgC/m2/s
dry_deposition_flux_of_dust_aerosol_at_surface dry deposition of dry dust at the surface 2D kg/m2/s
wet_deposition_flux_of_sulfate_as_sulfate_aerosol_at_surface wet deposition of dry sulfate at the surface 2D kgS/m2/s
wet_deposition_flux_of_seasalt_aerosol_at_surface wet deposition of dry seasalt at the surface 2D kg/m2/s
wet_deposition_flux_of_orbanic_carbon_as_particulate_organic_carbon_aerosol_at_surface wet deposition of dry organic carbon at the surface 2D kgC/m2/s
wet_deposition_flux_of_black_carbon_aerosol_at_surface wet deposition of dry black carbon at the surface 2D kgC/m2/s
wet_deposition_flux_of_dust_aerosol_at_surface wet deposition of dry dust at the surface 2D kg/m2/s
emission_flux_of_sulfate_aerosol_as_sulfate_at_surface emission of dry sulfate at the surface 2D kgS/m2/s
emission_flux_of_seasalt_aerosol_at_surface emission of dry seasalt at the surface 2D kg/m2/s
emission_flux_of_organic_carbon_as_particulate_organic_carbon_aerosol_at_surface emission of dry organic carbon at the surface 2D kgC/m2/s
emission_flux_of_black_carbon_aerosol_at_surface emission of dry black carbon at the surface 2D kgC/m2/s
emission_flux_of_dust_aerosol_at_surface emission of dry dust at the surface 2D kg/m2/s
emission_flux_of_sulfate_as_sulfate_aerosol_atmosphere emission of dry sulfate in the atmosphere 3D (including chemical production) kgS/m3/s
emission_flux_of_organic_carbon_as_particulate_organic_carbon_aerosol_in _the_atmosphere emission of dry organic carbon in the atmosphere 3D kgC/m3/s
emission_flux_of_black_carbon_atmosphere emission of dry black carbon in the atmosphere 3D kgC/m3/s
chemical_net_production_of_sulfate_as_sulfate_aerosol_atmosphere chemical production rate of dry sulfate 1/s (kg/s)
optical properties
sulfate_aerosol_optical_depth dry sulfate aerosol optical depth 1
black_carbon_aerosol_optical_depth dry black carbon aerosol optical depth 1
organic_carbon_aerosol_optical_depth dry organic carbon aerosol optical depth 1
dust_aerosol_optical_depth dry dust aerosol optical depth 1
seasalt_aerosol_optical_depth dry seasalt aerosol optical depth 1