A how-to guide for adding datasets to an ERDDAP server.
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  • ERDDAP is deployed using the Docker container as described in the Quick Start.

Adding a new dataset

A wide variety of data can be accepted by ERDDAP. To see a comprehensive list, check the ERDDAP source documentation on datasetTypes. In this page we walk through the overall process for adding a dataset to a Docker deployed ERDDAP.

For specific examples on how to ingest a few common data types into ERDDAP, see the following pages:

Working on the datasets.xml file

From the canonical ERDDAP docs:

After you have followed the ERDDAP installation instructions, you must edit the datasets.xml file in tomcat/content/erddap/ to describe the datasets that your ERDDAP installation will serve.

datasets.xml is the master configuration file for all of the datasets you will be serving through ERDDAP. As such, this file will become large and difficult to manage. It is recommended that ERDDAP administrators store each dataset’s xml snippet separately, then use a tool to combine all of the xml snippets into a master datasets.xml. See adding xml snippet to datasets.xml for options.

Run GenerateDatasetsXML.sh

Remember that everything is relative to the erddap-gold-standard/ directory. So, if your data files are in erddap-gold-standard/datasets/ your Starting Directory should be /datasets.

  • Before running GenerateDatasetsXML.sh, you must update the value of flagKeyKey in erddap/content/setup.xml.
  • To run GenerateDatasetsXml.sh using Docker:
$ ./GenerateDatasetsXml.sh

Inspect and edit xml created by GenerateDatasetsXml.sh

If successful, GenerateDatasetsXml.sh will have created the file /logs/GenerateDatasetsXml.out which contains a template of what the datasets.xml snippet should be for the dataset provided.

Things to check for:

  1. Check the license attribute and ensure it correctly depicts your organizations licensing policy.
  2. Check for LLAT variables and that those are correctly assumed.
  3. Ensure your metadata is appropriately documenting the data you are serving. Check for:
    1. units
    2. long_name

Adding xml snippet to datasets.xml

Now that you have your xml snippet ready to go, we need to add that xml snippet to datasets.xml. There are various ways you can go about doing this, including: copy and paste the xml (prone to errors in xml syntax), concatenating files together, or using a programming language to build the final file. Below are two examples

Use the shell command cat to concatenate all of the xml snippets together:

$ ls
01-head.xml  dataset1.xml  dataset2.xml  tail.xml
$ cat 01-head.xml dataset1.xml dataset2.xml tail.xml > datasets.xml
$ cp datasets.xml erddap/content/datasets.xml

Use Python’s xml.etree.ElementTree package to insert elements into a template:

Do note that some sections of the output of GenerateDatasetsXml.sh are commented with the <!-- and --> characters. This approach will remove such sections.

import xml.etree.ElementTree as ET

main_xml = '/erddap/content/datasets.xml'
xml_snip = '/logs/GenerateDatasetsXml.out'

# read master datasets.xml
main_tree = ET.parse(main_xml)
main_root = main_tree.getroot()

# read individual xml snippet for one dataset
snip_tree = ET.parse(xml_snip)
snip_root = snip_tree.getroot()

# insert snippet into master datasets.xml

# write a new master datasets.xml
main_tree.write('datasets.xml', encoding="utf-8")

Then copy the new datasets.xml to the old one:

$ cp datasets.xml erddap/content/datasets.xml

Loading/Refreshing the dataset in ERDDAP

Using the flag system

ERDDAP has a nice flagging system which tells ERDDAP to immediately reload a dataset. The system functions by putting a file with the same name as the datasetID you want to refresh, in the /erddap/data/flag/ or /erddap/data/hardFlag/ directories. To learn more about ERDDAP’s flagging system, see this documentation.

  • For example, to flag a dataset with the datasetID = sample, use:
    $ touch erddap/data/flag/sample

Reload ERDDAP-docker Container

If you want to refresh all of the datasets in your ERDDAP, you can always reload the entire docker container:

$ docker-compose restart
  • Note that this isn’t a great option for a public server.


  • If a dataset fails to load, you can see logs under /erddap/data/logs.
  • If a dataset fails to load, visit http://localhost:8080/erddap/status.html (which flushes log information to the log file), then look for an error message related to the dataset in /erddap/data/logs/log.txt.
  • When I add a new dataset it does not show on ERDDAP until I restart the Docker image or reboot the server.
    • datasets.xml was not updating within docker when it was changed on the host machine. When I rebooted the docker container, the datasets.xml synced again and the dataset was processed by ERDDAP and displayed on the server. This is why restarting the container fixed the problem. The reason that datasets.xml stopped syncing was inodes. We use a linux host machine and mount our datasets.xml file to the docker container with:-v /path/to/our/erddap/directory:/datasets.xml:/usr/local/tomcat/content/erddap/datasets.xml
    • If you mount a file like this then edit the file on the hosts machine, you can cause the inode to change https://stackoverflow.com/questions/71344789/docker-mount-not-updating-the-files. Check this by calling ls -i on datasets.xml on both host and container and see if they are the same. If not, datasets.xml on the container will stop syncing with datasets.xml on the host.
    • The solution was to mount the directory instead with -v /path/to/our/erddap/directory:/usr/local/tomcat/content/erddap