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Basic Satellite Imagery Interpretation in the Tropics


Dan Bikos







Other contributors / reviewers: John Knaff, Hugh Cobb, Mark DeMaria, Arlene Laing, Ray Zehr


This training session is based on the NESDIS workbook from the mid-1990s titled “Tropical Clouds and Cloud Systems Observed in Satellite Imagery” by Vernon Dvorak and Frank Smigielski. The motivation is to utilize the training concepts from the workbook but instead of using still black and white images, make use of color enhanced animated imagery.

Training Topics:

  • Tropical cloud identifcation.
  • Easterly Waves.
  • ITCZ flare-up (moisture conveyor belt).
  • Differential heating (i.e., sea-breeze, island effects).
  • Mesoscale convective vortices.
  • Surge lines.

Note: tropical cyclones will not be addressed during this training session, there are numerous other training sessions devoted to this important topic.

Training Session Options

NOAA/NWS students – to begin the training, use the web-based video, YouTube video, or audio playback options below (if present for this session). Certificates of completion for NOAA/NWS employees can be obtained by accessing the session via the Commerce Learn Center

  1. Audio playback (recommended for low-bandwidth users) – This is an audio playback version in the form of a downloadable VISITview and can be taken at anytime.

    Create a directory to download the audio playback file (301 MB) from the following link:

    After extracting the files into that directory click on either the visitplay.bat or visitauto.bat file to start the lesson. If both files are present, use visitauto.bat

  2. YouTube video:

References/Additional Links

  • Talking points are available for this lesson and may be printed out to easily review the session in detail at any time.
  • CIMSS wavetrak product
  • Tropical Clouds and Cloud Systems Observed in Satellite Imagery. Vernon Dvorak and Frank Smigielski. NESDIS workbook.
  • Trier, S. B., C. A. Davis and J. D. Tuttle, 2000: Long-lived mesosconvective vortices and their environment. Part I: Observations from the central United States during the 1998 warm season. Mon. Wea. Rev., 3376-3395.
This course is Basic

There are no prerequisites


Dan Bikos

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.