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The VISIT Program

VISIT Mission Statement

What will the VISIT program do?

The primary mission of the Virtual Institute for Satellite Integration Training (VISIT) is to accelerate the transfer of research results based on atmospheric remote sensing data into NWS operations. This transfer is accomplished through the education of NWS forecasters on the latest techniques to integrate remote sensing data, especially from satellite and radar. The education approach is based primarily on the use of distance education techniques (web-based audio/video modules and live teletraining) that rely on an expert being available at the local forecast offices (the Science Operations Officer (SOO) and a satellite/radar focal point).

Since geostationary and polar orbiting satellites provide earth and weather observations over the entire spatial spectrum, ranging from global to mesoscale to storm scale, the satellite perspective provides a useful framework into which other data can be integrated.

VISIT Contributors
Bachmeier, ScottUW/CIMSS/
Bikos, DanCSU/CIRA/
Connell, BernieCSU/CIRA/
Lindstrom, ScottUW/CIMSS/
Scharfenberg, KevinNWS / Forecast Decision Training Division Chief
Motta, BrianNOAA/NWS/
Van Til, RossNOAA/NWS/
VISIT History

Figure 1) An example of a video (PC) screen during a VISIT teletraining session developed at CIRA. The software allows instructors and students to view and manipulate the material synchronously. This includes annotations, animated loop controls as well as many other features. (Also see Figure 3 below)

The Virtual Institute for Satellite Integration Training (VISIT) distance learning program was originally created in 1998 with funding provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It was created in response to training requirements outpacing available travel funds as well as increased internet bandwidth and reliability. In order to address specific training needs, the VISIT team developed a distance learning software package called VISITview. The software allows users to simultaneously view and manipulate the images, animation, graphics and text. The strength of the VISIT teletraining approach is its ability to bring the instructor directly to the forecast office. The VISIT program is administered by staff from the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA), the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS), the National Weather Service (NWS) training division, and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS).

Just how does the teletraining process begin? It begins with the selection of a topic that is usually recommended by either NWS personnel or VISIT instructors. Once a topic is selected, VISIT instructors, along with external subject matter experts, develop an outline for the course. The model design used as the building blocks for most sessions is based on theoretical background knowledge of a particular topic followed and supported by case studies. The VISITview software package lends itself particularly well to this application by allowing the use of text windows, images (single or animated), and interactive graphics to be used together in a live conference setting. Once the first draft of a session is completed, a test run (beta test) of the lesson is presented to select NWS offices, subject matter experts, and other VISIT staff to refine the contents. Participants in this “trial run” provide formal reviewer comments that the authors are required to address (similar to the review process for refereed journal articles). Modifications to the session are then made, or justifications are provided should authors disagree with individual comments. Upon completion of the modifications, dates and times are selected and posted on the VISIT teletraining calendar for instruction and a formal announcement e-mail is sent to NWS offices.

Figure 2) VISIT instructor John Weaver (insert) leads a teletraining session as the NWS Office in Cleveland, Ohio follows along. Cleveland photo courtesy R. LaPlante.

NWS offices can signup for teletraining sessions via an e-mail sent to VISIT, a variety of teletraining sessions are offered each month. Setup instructions are sent out about a week before the session is scheduled to begin. The setup instructions contain download information for the file from one of the VISIT servers, the conference call information and a student guide to review before the training session. At the scheduled time of the session, all participating offices call in to the conference. The previously downloaded VISITview file is then initiated and run on the individual office’s PC. The VISITview software then automatically connects and synchronizes to the instructor’s PC over an internet connection, thereby allowing the instructor to control the session remotely. The controls include advancing of slides, annotations, animation controls, etc. (Fig. 1 and Fig. 3). Any actions done by the instructor are seen synchronously at every participating office (Fig. 2). During the teletraining session, interactivity is encouraged through the instructor’s questions and the often prodigious use of supporting case studies. The questions themselves are designed to generate thought-provoking discussion and practical reinforcement of the session’s principles for the student. The discussions may well lead to refinements and updates of the session material itself. At the conclusion of each teletraining session, an evaluation form is sent to the individual who signed up their respective office for the training (generally the Science Operations Officer) so that constructive criticism can lead to improvements of the session for future classes. The evaluation form also asks for the names of the students who participated so that a certificate of completion can be mailed to each student that fills out an evaluation form.

Figure 3) An example of an animated and annotated portion of a severe weather session.

Through October 2010, over 90 session topics have been developed, 28 of which were developed at CIRA. More than 1500 VISIT teletraining sessions have been administered during that same time period, with over 23,000 teletraining participants. It has been calculated that nearly 850 individual students have participated in at least 5 or more sessions, which is equivalent to roughly 1 full day of classroom training. Thus, considerable travel expenses plus time out of the office have been saved. Preparation for the VISIT material takes more time than comparable classroom presentations, given the extensive peer-review process used for the teletraining. However, the cost benefit gained by teletraining more than outweighs the expenditure for classroom training. Another benefit of teletraining is the use of the asynchronous versions for students that cannot attend the live teletraining. The VISIT website ( contains stand-alone versions of most sessions, many of which are of the audio (recorded) variety, and some with embedded instructor notes that can be viewed using a web browser. The web/audio versions make it possible to view the material at any time.

VISIT teletraining applications have continued to expand as more NOAA offices turn to this approach as a cost-effective solution to the problem of increased training requirements coupled with shrinking training and travel budgets. Based upon the generally positive student feedback, VISIT teletraining has fulfilled the goal of providing cost effective distance learning to operational forecasters.

VISIT Overview

What will VISIT program do?

The second phase of satellite meteorology training (Satellite Integration Training) focuses on the following challenges:

  1. The use of GOES and other modernized datasets in an effective manner while working with the AWIPS program.
  2. The integration of other remote sensing data (Polar satellites, radar, profiler, etc.) into the GOES framework.
  3. For NESDIS and NWS to work together to build the Virtual Institute for Satellite Integration Training in support of NWS operational requirements as space-based multi-spectral observations rapidly evolve.

What are the requirements for Satellite Integration Training?

The requirement for Satellite Integration Training stems from surveys of students at the COMET SatMet Residence Courses who questioned: “how do we utilize satellite data with radar data on AWIPS?” Specifically, the requirements are to:

  1. Train the operational forecast staff on the effective utilization of GOES observations and products as part of modernized NWS warning and forecast operations.
  2. Conduct the training in a cost-effective manner that carefully monitors all resources. A major factor is the reduction in available human resources and in travel.

Journal Article summarizing VISIT

Anthony Mostek, John Weaver, Dan Bikos, Dan Lindsey, Bard Zajac, Scott Bachmeier, Tom Whittaker, Brian Motta, Brad Grant, Jim LaDue and John Ferree. 2004: VISIT: Bringing Training to Weather Service Forecasters Using a New Distance-Learning Tool. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society: Vol. 85, No. 6, pp. 823-829.

Level of Difficulty Information


The level of difficulty for these Instructional Components is generally intended for entry level meteorologists (with less than 3 years of experience in operational forecasting/warning (Interns, new Journeyman Forecasters, etc.) Material presented is based on fundamental principals or concepts that are fairly well known and regularly applied in the NWS operational meteorological community. In addition, Basic Instructional Components can be training material that describes local office procedures or applications of non-meteorological forecasting techniques (for example, the Enhanced-V Session). Often this training is intended to be a prerequisite to successive, more difficult Instructional Components offered in the same Professional Competency Unit. Note: Even though this material is geared at an Introductory level, experienced forecasters might be advised to take this training for review or, for preparation for more advanced level training.


This type of training contains slightly more difficult concepts and is targeted for more experienced meteorologists. The pace of the training and difficulty of concepts presented require more advanced knowledge and skills in operational forecasting and warning. Examples used are often based on recent operational research and case studies that are more complex in nature. A good working knowledge of using the various integrated sensors in the forecast process are important to successfully complete these Instructional Components.


This type of training is devoted to highly advanced concepts and new techniques of using integrated sensors in the warning and forecast process. The pace and level of difficulty of material presented require well-rounded knowledge, ability, and experience in using the full range of meteorological sensors in the forecasting and warning process.

Troubleshooting VISITview Training Session

Updated 6/1/2009

For instructors:

  • The server is probably down if:
    • the Big Red Pointer does not appear initially
    • A message: Cannot contact server appears on the screen
    • you click on the screen and the BRP does not move to that position
    • you are running the Status Window, and the status does not update every 10 seconds (minimum)
  • If the server is or goes down:
    1. Have everyone (including yourself) stop the current session by closing the Client window.
    2. Run one of the alternate batch files to connect to a different server.
  • A site may have the wrong lesson file or be using the wrong batch file if:
    • Everyone else has the BRP and can see your page changes and/or annotations, yet the site can verify their Internet connection is OK (for example, they can access remote web sites using Netscape or IE).
  • If a site is using the wrong lesson or batch file:
    1. if they have it on disk, have them just run the batch file from that directory
    2. if they do not have the correct files, they need to try to download and install them and re-join the lesson.
    3. otherwise, they will have to reschedule.
  • A site may have a firewall problem or a networking problem if:
    • they do not see the Big Red Pointer, or get a “cannot contact server” error message, but everyone else is fine
    • everyone else can see your page changes and/or annotations.
  • If a site has a firewall or networking problem:
    1. they should contact their local network administrator
    2. they should run the visitlocal.bat file and turn their own pages

For students:

  • You may be using the wrong lesson file (sometimes lessons do get updated) or be using the wrong batch file to start your lesson, if:
    • initially the Big Red Pointer appears on the screen, but none of the slides show up
    • you click your mouse button at some location on the screen and the Big Red Pointer moves
    • none of the annotations show up on your screen
  • If you have the wrong lesson file:
    • if you have a copy of the correct one on disk, just switch to it and run the batch file
    • if you do not have a copy on disk, you can try to download it, install it and rejoin the lesson
    • otherwise, you’ll probably need to reschedule for a different day & time
  • If you are using the wrong batch file:
    1. close the window and run the correct batch file.
  • You are not connected to the server if:
    • If the Big Red Pointer does not show up on the screen initially
    • you get an error message about Cannot contact server
  • If you are not initially connected to the server:
    1. verify that you are using the correct batch file
    2. if you are, you may have a local network or firewall problem — contact your network administrator
    3. you may be able to continue the lesson using the visitlocal.bat file — but you will not be able to see any of the instructor’s annotations.
  • You may have lost connection to the server during the lesson, if:
    • the instructor is changing pages, drawing on the screen or doing other actions that you are no longer seeing, assume you have lost connection to the server.
    • you suddenly get an error message on the screen
    • your system seems to have “locked up”
  • If you loose connection to the server:
    1. stop your current session by closing the window
    2. close all other active applications (you may have run out of memory)
    3. rerun the batch file (like visit.bat)
    4. if that fails to re-connect you to the session, let the instructor know. You may have to run “visitlocal.bat” and “turn your own pages”, if you cannot get reconnected.
VISITview Software Homepage (external link)

VISITview Software Homepage (external link)

Page Contact

Bernie Connell


Unless otherwise noted, all content on the CIRA RAMMB: VISIT, SHyMet and VLab webpages are released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.