Satellite Water Vapour Interpretation -- Short Course

Satellite Water Vapour Interpretation


This self-paced distance learning course introduces the power of dynamical thinking. To apply this thinking to the real-time atmosphere is a challenge, even to seasoned atmospheric scientists. This short course is your first step toward dynamical reasoning using satellite water vapour imagery.

Goals and Objectives

The learner will use WV imagery to:

  • Identify the presence of vorticity centres, conveyor belts, and deformation zones
  • Determine the relative height of those features within a system
  • Create a three-dimensional mental model of the atmosphere depicted in the imagery
  • Identify and predict vorticity maxima in order to predict areas of positive vorticity advection
  • Identify and predict vorticity minima in order to predict areas of negative vorticity advection
  • Identify the related axes of maximum winds, shear zones, deformation zones, and air masses
  • Analyze the air masses and circulations
  • Analyze the related paired and companion vorticity centers
  • Analyze the related axis of maximum wind and wind maxima
  • Analyze the location, orientation and shape of the deformation zone
  • Define the physical characteristics of conveyor belts.
  • Identify and locate conveyor belts on water vapour imagery.
  • Estimate areas within a conveyor belt where airflow is staying on or leaving an isentropic surface.
  • Define the three-dimensional airflow in each conveyor belt by:
    • Indicating rising and sinking motions
    • Locating the col/saddle point in the deformation zone
    • Identifying the cyclonic and anti-cyclonic branches
    • Locating the end of the cyclonic and anti-cyclonic branches
  • Define the three-dimensional structure (heights) of conveyor belt tops.


Satellite imagery is a key stepping stone in making a full analysis of the three-dimensional atmosphere. When making forecasts based on those imagery, what is the framework for understanding the atmosphere? The answer is fluid dynamics.

Water vapour imagery brings the shallow-water model into plain sight. This short course helps you combine the water vapour channel with your understanding of fluid dynamics to bring a new point of view to your meteorological analysis. Jets, deformation zones, vorticity centers, and conveyor belts all play together in the shallow-water model that is our atmosphere, and this course will help you understand them and their interplay.

Course Outline

Course Outline