The NCO (netCDF Operator) command ncks (netCDF Kitchen Sink).

From the documentation:

The nickname “kitchen sink” is a catch-all because ncks combines most features of ncdump and nccopy with extra features to extract, hyperslab, multi-slab, sub-set, and translate into one versatile utility. ncks extracts (a subset of the) data from input-file and and writes (or pastes) it in netCDF format to output-file, and optionally writes it in flat binary format to binary-file, and optionally prints it to screen.


ncks extracts (and optionally creates a new netCDF file comprised of) only selected variables from the input file (similar to the old ncextr specification). Only variables and coordinates may be specifically included or excluded—all global attributes and any attribute associated with an extracted variable are copied to the screen and/or output netCDF file.

The flag for extracting variables is -v (followed by variable name(s) separated by commas):

ncks -v var1,var2 no space after the comma!

In case you’ve forgotten what the names of your variables are, do:

ncdump -h

-h prints headers only (and not the values). I usually direct the output of ncdump to a text file:

ncdump -h > ncdump.txt

Also, if you forgot some of the variables that you wanted then you don’t have to do the whole list again - NCO is always willing to append variables. So if you run:

ncks -v var3

but the already exists, then NCO will prompt you with this:

ncks: exists—e'xit, o’verwrite (i.e., delete existing file), or `a’ppend (i.e., replace duplicate variables in and add new variables to existing file) (e/o/a)?

So you can enter a and hit ‘return’.