Using the human eye to classify tropical systems

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Technology continues to improve each and every day. We can get real-time satellite images at the palm of your hand. We’ve come a long way in understanding hurricanes but what about the ones that have already occurred? Satellite images from previous storms are helping us understand them in the present day.

There is a technique to classify tropical systems known as the Dvorak Technique. This technique analyzes cloud patterns and temperatures from a single satellite images to estimate the intensity of a tropical cyclone. There are 4 main questions the technique tries to answer:

1. Where is the center of the system?

2. What type of cloud pattern best describes the system?

3. How organized or intense is the cloud pattern?

4. Does the system look stronger or weaker than 24 hours ago?


This is where you come in! A project called “The Cyclone Center” has developed a version of the Dvorak technique that is easy to understand. The more analysis that is done, the better understanding of previous systems we have. In the project, you’ll be asked what you see based on the picture shown. Here’s an example of a question that might be asked along with a guide of what to look for:

If you would like to give your hand at the Dvorak Technique, go to The Cyclone Center. It’s free and only takes a few moments to get started. Then you’ll be contributing to the science community!


~ Meteorologist Candice Boling

{Information and Pictures courtesy of cyclonecenter.org}

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