Contributor Guide


Thank you for your interest in contributing to the WRF-Python project. WRF-Python is made up of a very small amount of developers, tasked with supporting more than one project, so we rely on outside contributions to help keep the project moving forward.

The guidelines below help to ensure that the developers and outside collaborators remain on the same page regarding contributions.

Source Code Location

The source code is available on GitHub:

Git Flow

This project follows the GitFlow Workflow, which you can read about here if it is new to you:

For external contributors, this isn’t important, other than making you aware that when you first clone the repository, you will be on the develop branch, which is what you should use for your development.

Since you will be submitting pull requests for your contributions, you don’t really need to know much about GitFlow, other than making sure that you are not developing off of the main branch.

Ways to Contribute

Users are encouraged to contribute various ways. This includes:

  • Submitting a bug report
  • Submitting bug fixes
  • Submitting new Fortran computational routines
  • Submitting new Python computational routines
  • Submitting fully wrapped computational routines
  • Fixing documentation errors
  • Creating new examples in the documentation (e.g. plotting examples)

Ground Rules

Please follow the Code of Conduct.

  • Please create an issue on GitHub for any pull request you wish to submit, except for documentation issues.
  • Each pull request should be for a logical collection of changes. You can submit multiple bug fixes in a single pull request if the bugs are related. Otherwise, please submit seperate pull requests.
  • Do not commit changes to files that are unrelated to your bug fix (e.g. .gitignore).
  • The pull request and code review process is not immediate, so please be patient.

Submitting Bug Reports

Submitting bug reports is the easiest way to contribute. You will need to create an account on GitHub to submit a report.

  1. Go to the issues page here:

  2. Check to see if an issue has already been created for the problem that you are having.

  3. If an issue already exists for your problem, feel free to add any additional information to the issue conversation.

  4. If there is not an issue created yet for your problem, use the “New Issue” button to start your new issue.

  5. Please provide as much information as you can for the issue. Please supply your version of WRF-Python you are using and which platform you are using (e.g. conda-forge build on OSX). Supply a code snippet if you are doing something more detailed than simply calling wrf.getvar().

  6. If you are getting a crash (e.g. segmentation fault), we will most likely need to see your data file if we cannot reproduce the problem here. See Submitting Files.

Submitting Fortran Computational Routines

If you have Fortran computational routines that you’d like to contribute, but don’t know how to wrap them in to Python, please follow the instructions below.

  1. Only Fortran 90 code will be accepted, so please port your F77 code to F90.
  2. Follow the Fortran Style Guide.
  3. Please only submit routines relevant to WRF-Python (e.g. diagnostics, interpolation). General purpose climate/meteorology should go in to the SkyLab project (a project providing similar functionality as NCL).
  4. If you are unsure if you should contribute your Fortran code, make an issue on GitHub and we can begin a discussion there.
  5. Place your code in the fortran/contrib directory in the WRF-Python source tree.
  6. Document your code with a text file that has the same name as your Fortran file, but ending in .rst. This file should placed with your F90 code in the fortran/contrib directory. Your documentation can use restructured text formatting, or just plain text. This documentation will be used for the docstring when Python wrappers are made.
  7. If you are unable to provide any type of test for your routine, please ensure that your documentation describes what your computation should produce. You can submit auxiallary documentation and/or images for this purpose if needed.

Submitting Python Computational Routines

If you would like to submit a computational routine written in Python, but don’t know how to integrate it with the rest of WRF-Python’s internals (e.g. left indexing, arg checking, etc), feel free to submit the pure Python routine. Below is the guide for submitting pure Python routines.

  1. These routines should be placed in src/wrf/ These algorithms will not be imported in to WRF-Python’s default namespace.
  2. Follow the Python Style Guide.
  1. Write your computation as dimension unaware as possible. For example, adding pressure and perturbation pressure is simply P + PB.
  2. If dimensionality is needed, then write for the minimum dimensionality required to make the computation for one time step (if applicable). For example, if you’re computing CAPE, then you should use three dimensions for your algorithm, and we will handle the looping over all times.
  3. Document your routine by creating a docstring that follows Google docstring format (see Sphinx Napoleon).
  4. If you are unable to provide a test for this function, please provide additional documentation (or images) to show what this function should produce.

Submitting Fully Wrapped Computational Routines

Submitting a fully wrapped computational routines is the fastest way to get your contributation released. However, it requires the most effort on your part.

  1. Read the WRF-Python Internals guide. This will show you how to wrap your routine.
  2. Follow the Fortran Style Guide and Python Style Guide.
  3. You should create your contribution in the WRF-Python source tree as if you were one of the core developers of it. This means:
    • Your Fortran code (if applicable) should be placed in the fortran directory.
    • Update the “ext1 = numpy.distutils.core.Extension” section of to include your new Fortran source (if applicable).
    • Update to create the Python wrapper that calls your Fortran function. This must include the appropriate function decorators for handling argument checking, leftmost dimension indexing, etc. as described in WRF-Python Internals.
    • If the current function decorators do not cover your specific needs, place your custom decorator in Most of the decorators in are used for products that contain multiple outputs like cape_2d, but you can use it for other purposes.
    • If your function is pure python, you can create a new module for it, or place it in another module with similar functionality. For example, if your routine is a new interpolation routine, then it should go in Remember to apply the same type of decorators as done with Fortran extensions (checking args, leftmost dimension indexing, etc).
    • Create a ‘getter’ routine which is responsible for extracting the required variables from a WRF file and calling your computational routine. This is what will be called by wrf.getvar(). This function should be placed in a new python module with the prefix ‘g_’ (i.e.
    • Decorate your getter routine with an appropriate metadata handling decorator. If you need to make a custom decorator for the metadata, place it in
    • Update the mappings in to map your diagnostic name to your function, and to declare any keyword arguments that your function needs aside from the usual wrfin, varname, timeidx, method, squeeze, cache, and meta.
    • If you would like to make your routine available as a raw computation, you will need to place an additional thin wrapper in This thin wrapper must be decorated with an appropriate metadata decorator found in (usually set_alg_metadata). If you need to write your own custom metadata decorator, write it in
    • You must provide a docstring for every function you create using Google docstring format (see Sphinx Napoleon).
    • You must provide a test for your function. See Testing.

Fixing Documentation Errors

  1. Documenation is made with Sphinx using restructured text.
  2. Python docstrings follow Google docstring format.
  3. Documentation can be found in the doc directory, along with the docstrings contained within the Python code.
  4. For documentation fixes, you can just submit a pull request with the appropriate corrections already made.

Creating New Examples

  1. Examples are made with Sphinx using restructured text.
  2. Examples are currently found in the doc directory, mostly within the basic_usage.rst and plot.rst files. Feel free to contribute more examples to these files.
  3. Unless you are drastically changing the documentation structure, you can submit a pull request with your examples without creating a GitHub issue. If you are making a large change, or are unsure about it, then go ahead and create a GitHub issue to discuss with the developers.

Setting Up Your Development Environment

We recommend using the conda package manager for your Python environments. Our recommended setup for contributing is:

  • Install miniconda

  • Install git on your system if it is not already there (install XCode command line tools on a Mac or git bash on Windows)

  • Login to your GitHub account and make a fork of the WRF-Python repository by clicking the Fork button.

  • Clone your fork of the WRF-Python repository (in terminal on Mac/Linux or git shell/ GUI on Windows) in the location you’d like to keep it.

    git clone
  • Navigate to that folder in the terminal or in Anaconda Prompt if you’re on Windows.

    cd wrf-python
  • Connect your repository to the NCAR WRF-Python repository.

    git remote add ncar
  • To create the development environment, you’ll need to run the appropriate command below for your operating system.


    conda env create -f build_envs/Darwin.yml


    conda env create -f build_envs/Linux.yml


    conda env create -f build_envs/Win64.yml

    Note: For Win64, you will also need VS2015 installed on your system.

  • Activate your conda environment.

    conda activate wrf_python_build
  • CD to the build_scripts directory.

    cd build_scripts
  • Build and install WRF-Python.




  • The previous step will build and install WRF-Python in to the ‘develop’ environment. If you make changes and want to rebuild, uninstall WRF-Python by running:

    pip uninstall wrf-python

    Now follow the previous step to rebuild.

Code Style

Python Style Guide

The Python code in WRF-Python follows the PEP8 coding standard. All Python code submitted must pass the PEP8 checks performed by the pycodestyle code style guide utility. The utility must pass without any errors or warnings. For a tool to help automate some of the mundane formatting corrections (e.g. whitespace characters in blank lines, etc.), try the autopep8 utility.

Fortran Style Guide

At this time, we are only accepting Fortran 90 contributions, so you must convert any F77 code to F90 before contributing.

Although there is no formal style guide for Fortran contributions, Fortran code should look similar to other Fortran code in the WRF-Python fortran directory.

A summary of style notes is below:

  • Fortran 90 only.
  • Use 4 spaces for indentation, not tabs.
  • Use all capital letters for Fortran key words (e.g. IF, DO, REAL, INTENT)
  • Use all capital letters for Fortran intrinsics (e.g. MAX, MIN, SUM)
  • Use all capital letters for any constants declared as PARAMETER (e.g. RD).
  • Use all lowercase letters for variables with ‘_’ separting words (snake case).
  • Use all lowercase letters for functions and subroutines using ‘_’ to separate words (snake case).
  • Declare your REAL variables as REAL(KIND=8), unless you really need 4-byte REALs for a specific reason.
  • Do not allocate any memory in your Fortran routine (e.g work arrays). We will use numpy arrays to manage all memory. Instead, declare your work array (or dynamic array) as an INTENT(INOUT) argument in your function signature.
  • Avoid submitting code that uses global variables (other than for read only constants). All Fortran contributions must be threadsafe and have no side effects.
  • Place any computational constants in the wrf_constants module found in wrf_constants.f90 and put a “USE wrf_constants, ONLY : YOUR_CONSTANT,…” declaration in your function.
  • Please do not redefine constants already declared in wrf_constants.f90 (e.g. G, RD, RV, etc). Although the WRF model itself does not adhere to this, we are trying to be consistent with the constants used throughout WRF-Python.
  • Do not put any STOP statements in your code to handle errors. STOP statements will bring the entire Python interpreter down with it. Instead, use errstat and errmsg arguments to your function signature to tell Python about the error so it can throw an exception. See WETBULBCALC in wrf_rip_phys_routines.f90 for how this is handled.
  • If you know how to use OpenMP directives, feel free to add them to your routine, but this is not required.

Pull Requests

In order to submit changes, you must use GitHub to issue a pull request. Your pull requests should be made against the develop branch, since we are following GitFlow for this project.

Following a pull request, automated continuous integration tools will be run to ensure that your code follows the PEP 8 style guide, and verifies that a basic suite of unit tests run.

If your pull request is for a bug fix to an existing computational routine, then the automated unit tests will probably fail due to the new values. This is not a problem, but be sure to indicate to the developers in your GitHub issue that the tests will need to be updated.


Once you have submitted your contribution, we need a way to test your code. Currently, most of WRF-Python’s tests are written to ensure that WRF-Python produces the same result as the NCAR Command Language (NCL), which is where the code was originally derived. However, this isn’t applicable for new contributions and bug fixes, since there is nothing to test against for new contributions and bug fixes might change the numerical result. So, we have some recommendations below for how you can create your own tests.

Sample Data

You can download sample data for Hurricane Katrina here: <contact developers> This data includes both a moving nest and a static nest version. You should create your tests with this data set (both static and moving nests), unless you are unable to reproduce a particular problem with it.

Supplying Data

If you need to supply us data for your test (due to a bug) please provide us a link to the file or upload it using Submitting Files. Unless the data is very small, do not add it to the GitHub repository.

If you can demonstrate the problem/solution with a minimal set of hand created values, then you can use that in your test.


The following are guidelines for testing you contributions. The developers are aware that some issues have unique needs, so you can use the GitHub issue related to your contribution to discuss with developers.

  1. New computations must work for both moving nests and static nests. Generally this is not an issue unless your data makes use of lat/lon information (e.g. cross sections with lat/lon line definitions).
  2. WRF-Python’s tests can be found in the test directory.
  3. WRF-Python’s tests were written using the standard unittest package, along with numpy’s test package for the assert fuctions. One reason for this is that many of the tests are dynamically generated, and other testing frameworks can’t find the tests when generated this way. If you need to use another test framework, that’s fine, just let us know in your GitHub issue.
  4. Place your test in the test/contrib directory.
  5. For new contributions, images may be sufficient to show that your code is working. Please discuss with the developers in you GitHub issue.
  6. For bug related issues, try to create a case that demonstrates the problem, and demonstrates the fix. If your problem is a crash, then proving that your code runs without crashing should be sufficient.
  7. You might need some creativity here.