Installing NCL

Version 6.5.0 is the current version

NCL is available for MacOS, Linux, and Windows systems running either Cygwin or the Windows 10 Linux subsystem. NCL and NCAR Graphics are available as one package and collectively referred to as "NCL".

There are three ways to install NCL version 6.5.0, which takes up about 300 megabytes of disk space:

  1. Using conda

    This is the easiest method for installing NCL, but is only available for MacOS and Linux systems.
    Windows users who are running Cygwin should use the next option.

  2. Installing NCL from a precompiled binary

    This is the long-standing method where you download a precompiled version of NCL from a list of binaries that are available for various MacOS, Linux, and Windows/Cygwin systems.

  3. Downloading the NCL source code and building it yourself

    This is the most difficult method. It requires building or installing external packages that NCL depends on and building everything yourself. This method is only recommended if you are familiar with building software on UNIX systems and you like this sort of thing. Otherwise, We highly recommend that you use a precompiled binary if possible. Building from source code is not trivial.

Optionally, if you need access to high-resolution map coastlines, then download the RANGS/GSHHS database.

Test NCL

Once you have NCL installed, you can quickly test it by typing the following three commands from a UNIX terminal window:

  ncl -V
  ng4ex xy05n -clean
  ng4ex xy05n -clean -W png
The first command should echo "6.5.0".

The second command should pop up a window with an XY plot. Click on this window with your left mouse buttom to to exit it. If the window doesn't pop up, then something may be wrong with your DISPLAY environment variable. See the install from binary instruction page for details about setting DISPLAY.

The third command should produce the same graphic, except as a PNG file called "xy05n.png" (click on image for larger view):

Help on installation

All questions about installing, building, or setting up your environment should be emailed to You will need to subscribe first.

NCL binary and source licenses