WCS -- OGC Web Coverage Service
The optional GDAL WCS driver allows use of a coverage in a WCS server as a
raster dataset. GDAL acts as a client to the WCS server.
Accessing a WCS server is accomplished by creating a local service
description file that contains one <WCS_GDAL> XML
element. It is important that there is no spaces or other content
outside that element. Starting at version 2.3 the service description
file is meant to be managed by the driver in a cache directory. User
should control the contents of the service file using options. The
dataset name is "WCS:<URL>", where the <URL> is
the URL of the server appended potentially appended with WCS version,
coverage, and possibly other parameters. If the WCS version is 2.0.1
further parameters can be given to control how the data model of the
coverage is mapped to the GDAL data model.
If the URL does not contain a coverage name, the driver attempts to
fetch the capabilities document from the server, parse it, and show
the resulting metadata to the user. Coverages are shown as
subdatasets. If the URL contains a coverage name as parameter (the key
'coverage' can be used irrespective of the WCS version), the driver
attempts to fetch the coverage description document from the server,
parse it, and create service description file. A small test
GetCoverage request may be done to obtain details of the served
data. If the respective server capabilities file is not cached, it
will also be fetched.
With service version 2.0.1 (for which support is available starting at
GDAL version 2.3), it may be that the coverage has more than two
dimensions. In that case, the driver will append the coverage metadata
and show zero bands. At that point, the user must use options to
further instruct the driver how to deal with extra dimensions and data
The WCS driver supports WCS versions 1.0.0, 1.1.0, 1.1.1, 1.1.2, and
2.0.1 at basic level (version 0.7 is not supported and support for
version 2.0.1 is available starting at GDAL 2.3). Any return format
that is a single file, and is in a format supported by GDAL should
work. The driver will prefer a format with "tiff" in the name,
otherwise it will fallback to the first offered format. However, the
user may set the preferred format. Coordinate systems are read from
the DescribeCoverage result.
The service description file has the following elements as immediate
children of the document element. Note that when the "WCS:<URL>"
syntax for dataset name is used, the contents of the service description
file is meant to be modified by using options.
- ServiceURL: URL of the service without parameters
- Version: The WCS version that is used in the
communication. If the dataset name syntax WCS:URL is used the default
is 2.0.1 and the server's response may change the user request,
otherwise defaults to 1.0.0. Versions 1.0.0, 1.1.0, 1.1.1, 1.1.2, and
2.0.1 are supported.
- CoverageName: The coverage that is used for the dataset.
- Format: The format to use for GetCoverage calls. If not
set, selected by the driver. (WCS version 2.0)
- PreferredFormat: The format to use for GetCoverage
calls. If not set, selected by the driver. (WCS versions 1.0 and 1.1)
- Interpolation: The interpolation method used when scaling.
Should be one of the server supported values. (GDAL 2.3)
- BlockXSize: The block width to use for block cached remote
- BlockYSize: The block height to use for block cached
- OverviewCount: The number of overviews to represent bands
as having. Defaults to a number such that the top overview is fairly
smaller (less than 1K x 1K or so).
- NoDataValue: The nodata value to use for all the bands
(blank for none). Normally determined by the driver. With version
2.0.1 this may be a comma separated list of values, one for each
- Elements for controlling the range and domain:
- Domain: The axes that are used for the spatial
dimensions. The default is to use the first two axes given by the
server. The axis order swap may apply. Syntax:
axis_name,axis_name A field_name:field_name in the list
denotes a range of fields. (Used only with version 2.0.1)
- DefaultTime: A timePosition to use by default when
accessing coverages with a time dimension. Populated with the last
offered time position by default. (Used only with version 1.0.0)
- FieldName: Name of the field being accessed. Used only
with version 1.1. Defaults to the first field in the
DescribeCoverage. In version 1.1 the range consists of one or more
fields, which may be scalar or vector. A vector field contains one or
- BandCount: Number of bands in the dataset, normally
determined by the driver.
- BandType: The pixel data type to use. Normally
determined by the driver.
- Elements for controlling the communication:
- Timeout: The timeout to use for remote service requests.
If not provided, the libcurl default is used.
- UserPwd: May be supplied with userid:password to
pass a userid and password to the remote server.
- HttpAuth: May be BASIC, NTLM or ANY to control the
authentication scheme to be used.
- GetCoverageExtra: An additional set of keywords to add to
GetCoverage requests in URL encoded form.
eg. "&RESAMPLE=BILINEAR&Band=1". Note that the extra parameters
should not be known parameters (see below).
- DescribeCoverageExtra: An additional set of keywords to
add to DescribeCoverage requests in URL encoded form.
- Elements that may be needed to deal with server quirks (GDAL 2.3):
Note: The options are not propagated to the subdataset
with the switch -sd.
- OriginAtBoundary: Set this flag if the server reports grid
origin to be at the pixel boundary instead of the pixel center. (Use
for MapServer versions <= 7.0.7 with WCS versions 1.0.0 and
- OuterExtents: Set to consider WCS 1.1 extents as boundaries
of outer pixels instead of centers of outer pixels. (Use for
- BufSizeAdjust: Set to 0.5 in WCS 1.1 if data access fails
due to the response not having expected size. (Use for
- OffsetsPositive: Use with MapServer in WCS version
2.0.1 together wwith NrOffsets.
- NrOffsets: Set to 2 if the server requires that there are
only two values in the GridOffsets. Use when the server is MapServer
or ArcGIS. With MapServer use also OffsetsPositive.
- GridCRSOptional: Let the driver skip Grid* parameters from
a WCS 1.1 GetCoverage request if the request is not scaled. Do not use
- NoGridAxisSwap: Set to tell the driver not to swap axis
order. When reading the grid geometry (in WCS 1.1 the origin and
offsets, in WCS 2.0.1 the grid envelope, axis labels, and offsets) no
axis order swap is done although it would otherwise be done if this
flag is set. In 1.1 it would be done if the CRS has inverted axes. In
2.0.1 it would be done if the axisOrder of the sequenceRule in
GridFunction defines so. This is needed usually both in 1.1 and 2.0.1
when parsing coverage descriptions from MapServer and GeoServer.
- SubsetAxisSwap Set to tell the driver to swap the axis
names in boundedBy.Envelope.axisLabels when making WCS 2.0.1
GetCoverage request. Needed for GeoServer when EPSG dictates axis
- UseScaleFactor: Set to tell the driver to use scale by
factor approach instead of scale to size when making a WCS 2.0.1
GetCoverage request. Required when the server is ArcGIS.
Range and dimension subsetting
When WCS version 2.0.1 is used, the range (fields/bands) and the
dimension can and/or may need to be subsetted. If the data model of
the coverage contains dimensions beyond the two geographic or map
coordinates, those dimensions must be sliced for GDAL. The coverage
may also contain a large number of fields, from which only a subset is
wanted in the GDAL dataset.
Range and dimension subsetting must be done via URL parameters since
from one coverage it is possible to create more than one different
GDAL datasets. In the WCS cache this means that there may be the
sets of files related to a GDAL dataset:
The following URL parameters are used to control the range and
dimension subsetting. Note that these can also be set through options
into the service file. The ones in URL take precedence.
- server Capabilities file and a GDAL dataset metadata file made
from it (key = URL with WCS version number)
- server DescribeCoverage file, a template GDAL service file made
from it, and a GDAL dataset metadata file made for it (key = URL with
WCS version number and coverage name)
- the GDAL service file specifically for this dataset, and a GDAL
dataset metadata file (key = URL with WCS version number, coverage
name, and range and dimension subsetting parameters)
- RangeSubset: Used to select a subset of coverage fields to
the dataset. Syntax: field_name,field_name:field_name,.. (Note:
requires that the server implements the range subsetting
- Subset: Trim or slice a dimension when fetching data
from the server. Syntax:
Note that trimming the geographic/map coordinates is done by the driver.
Other WCS parameters
The following WCS (version 2.0.1) parameters are recognized besides
what has been described above. These all can be set either through
options or directly into the URL. The ones in URL take
precedence. Note that it is up to the server to support/recognize
When the "WCS:<URL>" dataset name syntax is used, open options
are used to control the driver and the contents of the service
description file. In the case the URL does not contain coverage name,
the service description file is not used and thus in that case the
options are not written into it. Open options are given separate to
the dataset name, with GDAL utility programs they are given using the
-oo switch (-oo "NAME=VALUE"). The -oo swicth expects only
one option but more options can be given repeating the switch.
In addition to DescribeCoverageExtra and GetCoverageExtra, which are
stored in the service description file, there is also
GetCapabilitiesExtra, which can be used as an open option when requesting
the overall capabilities from the server.
The open option SKIP_GETCOVERAGE can be used to prevent the driver
making a GetCoverage request to the server, which it usually does if
it can't determine the band count and band data type from the
capabilities or coverage descriptions. This option may be needed if
GetCoverage request fails.
All above listed element names can be given as options to the WCS
driver. In the case of flags the option should formally be
"Name=TRUE", but only "Name" suffices.
When the "WCS:<URL>" dataset name syntax is used, the server
responses, the service description file, and the metadata files are
stored in a cache. Generally, if the needed resource is in the cache,
it will be used and no extra calls to the server are done.
The default location of the cache directory is $HOME/.gdal/wcs_cache
The cache contents can be seen as subdatasets using an empty URL:
The cache control options/flags are
- CACHE=path Overrides the default cache location.
- CLEAR_CACHE The cache is completely initialized and all files are
- REFRESH_CACHE The cache entry, either capabilities or coverage,
depending on the call at hand, is deleted.
- DELETE_FROM_CACHE=k The cache entry (subdataset k), is
The WCS: dataset name syntax
The URL in the dataset name is not a complete WCS request URL. The
request URL, specifically, its query part, for GetCapabilities,
DescribeCoverage, and GetCoverage requests is composed by the
driver. Typically the user should only need to add to the server
address the version and coverage parameters. The string 'coverage' can
be used as the coverage parameter key although different WCS versions
use different keys. 'coverage' is also always used in the cache key.
The user may add arbitrary standard and non-standard extra parameters
to the URL. However, when that is done, it should be noted that the
URL is a cache database key and capability documents are linked to
coverage documents through the key. Please consider using the Extra
Starting with GDAL 1.9.0, this driver includes experimental support
for time based WCS 1.0.0 servers. On initial access the last offered
time position will be identified as the DefaultTime. Each time
position available for the coverage will be treated as a
Note that time based subdatasets are not supported when the service description
is the filename. Currently time support is not available for versions other
than WCS 1.0.0.