PyBats - SWMF & BATS-R-US Analysis Tools

PyBats! An open source Python-based interface for reading, manipulating, and visualizing BATS-R-US and SWMF output. For more information on the SWMF, please visit the Center for Space Environment Modeling.


At its most fundamental level, PyBats provides access to output files written by the Space Weather Modeling Framework and the codes contained within. The key task performed by PyBats is loading simulation data into a Spacepy data model object so that the user can move on to the important tasks of analyzing and visualizing the values. The secondary goal of PyBats is to make common tasks performed with these data as easy as possible. The result is that most SWMF output can be opened and visualized using only a few lines of code. Many complicated tasks, such as field line integration, is included as well.


Many output files in the SWMF share a common format. Objects to handle broad formats like these are found in the base module. The base module has classes to handle SWMF input files, as well.

The rest of the classes are organized by code, i.e. classes and functions specifically relevant to BATS-R-US can be found in spacepy.pybats.bats. Whenever a certain code included in the SWMF requires a independent class or a subclass from the PyBats base module, it will receive its own submodule.

Conventions and Prefixes

Nearly every class in PyBats inherits from spacepy.datamodel.SpaceData, so it is important for users to understand how to employ and explore SpaceData objects. There are a few exceptions, so always pay close attention to the docstrings and examples. Legacy code that does not adhere to this pattern is slowly being brought up-to-date with each release.

Visualization methods have two prefixes: plot_ and add_. Whenever a method begins with plot_, a quick-look product will be created that is not highly- configurable. These methods are meant to yeild either simple diagnostic plots or static, often-used products. There are few methods that use this prefix. The prefix add_ is always followed by plot_type; it indicates a plotting method that is highly configurable and meant to be combined with other add_-like methods and matplotlib commands.

Common calculations, such as calculating Alfven wave speeds of MHD results, are strewn about PyBats’ classes. They are always given the method prefix calc_, i.e. calc_alfven. Methods called calc_all will search for all class methods with the calc_ prefix and call them.

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There are submodules for most models included within the SWMF. The classes and methods contained within are code-specific, yielding power and convenience at the cost of flexibility. A few of the submodules are helper modules- they are not code specific, but rather provide functionality not related to an SWMF-included code.


A PyBats module for handling input, output, and visualization of binary SWMF output files taylored to BATS-R-US-type data.


The PyBats submodule for handling input and output for the Dynamic Global Core Plasma Model (DGCPM), a plasmasphere module of the SWMF.


Some functions for the generation of a dipole field.


PyBats submodule for handling input/output for the Global Ionosphere-Thermosphere Model (GITM), one of the choices for the UA module in the SWMF.


kyoto is a tool set for obtaining and handling geomagnetic indices stored at the Kyoto World Data Center (WDC) website.


PyBats submodule for handling input/output for the Polar Wind Outflow Model (PWOM), one of the choices for the PW module in the SWMF.


A module for reading, handling, and plotting RAM-SCB output.


Classes, functions, and methods for reading, writing, and plotting output from the Ridley Ionosphere Model (RIM) and the similar legacy code, Ridley Serial.


A set of routines for fast field line tracing.

Top-Level Classes & Functions

Top-level PyBats classes handle common-format input and output from the SWMF and are very flexible. However, they do little beyond open files for the user.

There are several functions found in the top-level module. These are mostly convenience functions for customizing plots.


IdlFile(filename[, format, header, keep_case])

An object class that reads/parses an IDL-formatted output file from the SWMF and places it into a spacepy.pybats.PbData object.

ImfInput([filename, load, npoints])

A class to read, write, manipulate, and visualize solar wind upstream input files for SWMF simulations.

LogFile(filename[, starttime, keep_case])

An object to read and handle SWMF-type logfiles.

NgdcIndex([filename, load])

Many models incorporated into the SWMF rely on National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) provided index files (especially F10.7 and Kp).

PbData(*args, **kwargs)

The base class for all PyBats data container classes.


An class to load, read, write, and handle BATS-R-US satellite orbit input files.


add_body(ax[, rad, facecolor, show_planet, …])

Creates a circle of radius=self.attrs[‘rbody’] and returns the MatPlotLib Ellipse patch object for plotting.

add_planet(ax[, rad, ang, add_night, zorder])

Creates a circle of radius=self.para['rbody'] and returns the MatPlotLib Ellipse patch object for plotting.


Parse the VARIABLES line from a TecPlot-formatted ascii data file.