Actually the purpose of `np.meshgrid`

is already mentioned in the documentation:

`np.meshgrid`

Return coordinate matrices from coordinate vectors.

Make N-D coordinate arrays for vectorized evaluations of N-D scalar/vector fields over N-D grids, given one-dimensional coordinate arrays x1, x2,…, xn.

So it’s primary purpose is to create a coordinates matrices.

You probably just asked yourself:

### Why do we need to create coordinate matrices?

The reason you need coordinate matrices with Python/NumPy is that there is no direct relation from coordinates to values, except when your coordinates start with zero and are purely positive integers. Then you can just use the indices of an array as the index.
However when that’s not the case you somehow need to store coordinates alongside your data. That’s where grids come in.

Suppose your data is:

1 2 1
2 5 2
1 2 1

However, each value represents a 3 x 2 kilometer area (horizontal x vertical). Suppose your origin is the upper left corner and you want arrays that represent the distance you could use:

import numpy as np
h, v = np.meshgrid(np.arange(3)*3, np.arange(3)*2)

where v is:

array([[0, 0, 0],
[2, 2, 2],
[4, 4, 4]])

and h:

array([[0, 3, 6],
[0, 3, 6],
[0, 3, 6]])

So if you have two indices, let’s say `x`

and `y`

(that’s why the return value of `meshgrid`

is usually `xx`

or `xs`

instead of `x`

in this case I chose `h`

for horizontally!) then you can get the x coordinate of the point, the y coordinate of the point and the value at that point by using:

h[x, y] # horizontal coordinate
v[x, y] # vertical coordinate
data[x, y] # value

That makes it much easier to keep track of coordinates **and** (even more importantly) you can pass them to functions that need to know the coordinates.

## A slightly longer explanation

However, `np.meshgrid`

itself isn’t often used directly, mostly one just uses one of *similar* objects `np.mgrid`

or `np.ogrid`

.
Here `np.mgrid`

represents the `sparse=False`

and `np.ogrid`

the `sparse=True`

case (I refer to the `sparse`

argument of `np.meshgrid`

). Note that there is a significant difference between
`np.meshgrid`

and `np.ogrid`

and `np.mgrid`

: The first two returned values (if there are two or more) are reversed. Often this doesn’t matter but you should give meaningful variable names depending on the context.

For example, in case of a 2D grid and `matplotlib.pyplot.imshow`

it makes sense to name the first returned item of `np.meshgrid`

`x`

and the second one `y`

while it’s
the other way around for `np.mgrid`

and `np.ogrid`

.

`np.ogrid`

and sparse grids

>>> import numpy as np
>>> yy, xx = np.ogrid[-5:6, -5:6]
>>> xx
array([[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]])
>>> yy
array([[-5],
[-4],
[-3],
[-2],
[-1],
[ 0],
[ 1],
[ 2],
[ 3],
[ 4],
[ 5]])

As already said the output is reversed when compared to `np.meshgrid`

, that’s why I unpacked it as `yy, xx`

instead of `xx, yy`

:

>>> xx, yy = np.meshgrid(np.arange(-5, 6), np.arange(-5, 6), sparse=True)
>>> xx
array([[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]])
>>> yy
array([[-5],
[-4],
[-3],
[-2],
[-1],
[ 0],
[ 1],
[ 2],
[ 3],
[ 4],
[ 5]])

This already looks like coordinates, specifically the x and y lines for 2D plots.

Visualized:

yy, xx = np.ogrid[-5:6, -5:6]
plt.figure()
plt.title('ogrid (sparse meshgrid)')
plt.grid()
plt.xticks(xx.ravel())
plt.yticks(yy.ravel())
plt.scatter(xx, np.zeros_like(xx), color="blue", marker="*")
plt.scatter(np.zeros_like(yy), yy, color="red", marker="x")

`np.mgrid`

and dense/fleshed out grids

>>> yy, xx = np.mgrid[-5:6, -5:6]
>>> xx
array([[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]])
>>> yy
array([[-5, -5, -5, -5, -5, -5, -5, -5, -5, -5, -5],
[-4, -4, -4, -4, -4, -4, -4, -4, -4, -4, -4],
[-3, -3, -3, -3, -3, -3, -3, -3, -3, -3, -3],
[-2, -2, -2, -2, -2, -2, -2, -2, -2, -2, -2],
[-1, -1, -1, -1, -1, -1, -1, -1, -1, -1, -1],
[ 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0],
[ 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1],
[ 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2],
[ 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3],
[ 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4],
[ 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5]])

The same applies here: The output is reversed compared to `np.meshgrid`

:

>>> xx, yy = np.meshgrid(np.arange(-5, 6), np.arange(-5, 6))
>>> xx
array([[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
[-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]])
>>> yy
array([[-5, -5, -5, -5, -5, -5, -5, -5, -5, -5, -5],
[-4, -4, -4, -4, -4, -4, -4, -4, -4, -4, -4],
[-3, -3, -3, -3, -3, -3, -3, -3, -3, -3, -3],
[-2, -2, -2, -2, -2, -2, -2, -2, -2, -2, -2],
[-1, -1, -1, -1, -1, -1, -1, -1, -1, -1, -1],
[ 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0],
[ 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1],
[ 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2],
[ 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3],
[ 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4],
[ 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5]])

Unlike `ogrid`

these arrays contain **all** `xx`

and `yy`

coordinates in the -5 <= xx <= 5; -5 <= yy <= 5 grid.

yy, xx = np.mgrid[-5:6, -5:6]
plt.figure()
plt.title('mgrid (dense meshgrid)')
plt.grid()
plt.xticks(xx[0])
plt.yticks(yy[:, 0])
plt.scatter(xx, yy, color="red", marker="x")

### Functionality

It’s not only limited to 2D, these functions work for arbitrary dimensions (well, there is a maximum number of arguments given to function in Python and a maximum number of dimensions that NumPy allows):

>>> x1, x2, x3, x4 = np.ogrid[:3, 1:4, 2:5, 3:6]
>>> for i, x in enumerate([x1, x2, x3, x4]):
... print('x{}'.format(i+1))
... print(repr(x))
x1
array([[[[0]]],
[[[1]]],
[[[2]]]])
x2
array([[[[1]],
[[2]],
[[3]]]])
x3
array([[[[2],
[3],
[4]]]])
x4
array([[[[3, 4, 5]]]])
>>> # equivalent meshgrid output, note how the first two arguments are reversed and the unpacking
>>> x2, x1, x3, x4 = np.meshgrid(np.arange(1,4), np.arange(3), np.arange(2, 5), np.arange(3, 6), sparse=True)
>>> for i, x in enumerate([x1, x2, x3, x4]):
... print('x{}'.format(i+1))
... print(repr(x))
# Identical output so it's omitted here.

Even if these also work for 1D there are two (much more common) 1D grid creation functions:

Besides the `start`

and `stop`

argument it also supports the `step`

argument (even complex steps that represent the number of steps):

>>> x1, x2 = np.mgrid[1:10:2, 1:10:4j]
>>> x1 # The dimension with the explicit step width of 2
array([[1., 1., 1., 1.],
[3., 3., 3., 3.],
[5., 5., 5., 5.],
[7., 7., 7., 7.],
[9., 9., 9., 9.]])
>>> x2 # The dimension with the "number of steps"
array([[ 1., 4., 7., 10.],
[ 1., 4., 7., 10.],
[ 1., 4., 7., 10.],
[ 1., 4., 7., 10.],
[ 1., 4., 7., 10.]])

## Applications

You specifically asked about the purpose and in fact, these grids are extremely useful if you need a coordinate system.

For example if you have a NumPy function that calculates the distance in two dimensions:

def distance_2d(x_point, y_point, x, y):
return np.hypot(x-x_point, y-y_point)

And you want to know the distance of each point:

>>> ys, xs = np.ogrid[-5:5, -5:5]
>>> distances = distance_2d(1, 2, xs, ys) # distance to point (1, 2)
>>> distances
array([[9.21954446, 8.60232527, 8.06225775, 7.61577311, 7.28010989,
7.07106781, 7. , 7.07106781, 7.28010989, 7.61577311],
[8.48528137, 7.81024968, 7.21110255, 6.70820393, 6.32455532,
6.08276253, 6. , 6.08276253, 6.32455532, 6.70820393],
[7.81024968, 7.07106781, 6.40312424, 5.83095189, 5.38516481,
5.09901951, 5. , 5.09901951, 5.38516481, 5.83095189],
[7.21110255, 6.40312424, 5.65685425, 5. , 4.47213595,
4.12310563, 4. , 4.12310563, 4.47213595, 5. ],
[6.70820393, 5.83095189, 5. , 4.24264069, 3.60555128,
3.16227766, 3. , 3.16227766, 3.60555128, 4.24264069],
[6.32455532, 5.38516481, 4.47213595, 3.60555128, 2.82842712,
2.23606798, 2. , 2.23606798, 2.82842712, 3.60555128],
[6.08276253, 5.09901951, 4.12310563, 3.16227766, 2.23606798,
1.41421356, 1. , 1.41421356, 2.23606798, 3.16227766],
[6. , 5. , 4. , 3. , 2. ,
1. , 0. , 1. , 2. , 3. ],
[6.08276253, 5.09901951, 4.12310563, 3.16227766, 2.23606798,
1.41421356, 1. , 1.41421356, 2.23606798, 3.16227766],
[6.32455532, 5.38516481, 4.47213595, 3.60555128, 2.82842712,
2.23606798, 2. , 2.23606798, 2.82842712, 3.60555128]])

The output would be identical if one passed in a dense grid instead of an open grid. NumPys broadcasting makes it possible!

Let’s visualize the result:

plt.figure()
plt.title('distance to point (1, 2)')
plt.imshow(distances, origin='lower', interpolation="none")
plt.xticks(np.arange(xs.shape[1]), xs.ravel()) # need to set the ticks manually
plt.yticks(np.arange(ys.shape[0]), ys.ravel())
plt.colorbar()

And this is also when NumPys `mgrid`

and `ogrid`

become very convenient because it allows you to easily change the resolution of your grids:

ys, xs = np.ogrid[-5:5:200j, -5:5:200j]
# otherwise same code as above

However, since `imshow`

doesn’t support `x`

and `y`

inputs one has to change the ticks by hand. It would be really convenient if it would accept the `x`

and `y`

coordinates, right?

It’s easy to write functions with NumPy that deal naturally with grids. Furthermore, there are several functions in NumPy, SciPy, matplotlib that expect you to pass in the grid.

I like images so let’s explore `matplotlib.pyplot.contour`

:

ys, xs = np.mgrid[-5:5:200j, -5:5:200j]
density = np.sin(ys)-np.cos(xs)
plt.figure()
plt.contour(xs, ys, density)

Note how the coordinates are already correctly set! That wouldn’t be the case if you just passed in the `density`

.

Or to give another fun example using astropy models (this time I don’t care much about the coordinates, I just use them to create *some* grid):

from astropy.modeling import models
z = np.zeros((100, 100))
y, x = np.mgrid[0:100, 0:100]
for _ in range(10):
g2d = models.Gaussian2D(amplitude=100,
x_mean=np.random.randint(0, 100),
y_mean=np.random.randint(0, 100),
x_stddev=3,
y_stddev=3)
z += g2d(x, y)
a2d = models.AiryDisk2D(amplitude=70,
x_0=np.random.randint(0, 100),
y_0=np.random.randint(0, 100),
radius=5)
z += a2d(x, y)

Although that’s just “for the looks” several functions related to functional models and fitting (for example `scipy.interpolate.interp2d`

,
`scipy.interpolate.griddata`

even show examples using `np.mgrid`

) in Scipy, etc. require grids. Most of these work with open grids and dense grids, however some only work with one of them.