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How do I interpret water vapor imagery?


Water vapor in the mid and upper troposphere absorbs infrared energy at discrete wavelengths. Using this information, water vapor can act like a tracer of atmospheric circulation in the mid and upper troposphere. Dark regions on water vapor pictures are generally areas where the air is sinking and drying. Light colored regions are areas of rising motion and moisture. Water vapor images are useful in locating jet streams and short-wave troughs and ridges in the mid and upper troposphere, but are lousy when trying to see clouds near the ground such as stratus.

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