Vis5D was produced by SSEC Visualization Project which also produced VisAD. Here is a short history of Vis5D and VisAD.

We Recommend Vis5d+

Vis5D development has ceased at SSEC, but continues as the Vis5d+ Project on SourceForge. This was initiated by Steven Johnson of MIT and now includes Jim Edwards, the NCAR visualization team and others. We will continue to serve our older versions of Vis5D but recommend Vis5d+.


Vis5D development is also continuing at NOAA Forecast Systems Lab as the D3D project by Paula McCaslin, Phil McDonald, Ed Szoke and Herb Grote. D3D is not publicly available but is used with the AWIPS system at a number of NWS offices. We hope that FSL will eventually make this excellent system publicly available.


Cave5D is a virtual reality version of Vis5D for the CAVE and ImmersaDesk. It was written by the SSEC Visualization Project for The SIGGRAPH 94 Daily Weather Forecast in the VROOM (virtual reality room) at Siggraph '94, and Exploring Coupled Atmosphere-Ocean Models Using Vis5D and VisAD at Supercomputing '95 in the GII Testbed. This demonstration connected a CAVE in San Diego to an SP-2 data server at Argonne National Labs via the high-speed I-WAY network. Click here to see a Cave5D view of sea surface temperatures and upper air winds from the global coupled ocean-atmosphere model.

Cave5D is currently being devloped and distributed by Sheri Mickelson and John Taylor of Argonne National Laboratory. It is freely available here. Cave5D can be applied to any Vis5D data set (i.e., any .v5d file).

Beta Release of Vis5D-5.2 Available

Vis5D version 5.2 is available at The source code (vis5d-5.2.tar.Z) and precompiled executables can be found here.

For a sample image click here

The following are also available


Vis5D is a system for interactive visualization of large 5-D gridded data sets such as those produced by numerical weather models. One can make isosurfaces, contour line slices, colored slices, volume renderings, etc of data in a 3-D grid, then rotate and animate the images in real time. There's also a feature for wind trajectory tracing, a way to make text anotations for publications, support for interactive data analysis, etc.

Here's a screen shot of Vis5D generating a spread sheet display of four members of an ECMWF ensemble forecast:

Click here, here or here for more sample images.

Vis5D was written by the Visualization Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC) by Bill Hibbard, Johan Kellum, and Brian Paul with the help of:

The development of Vis5D was supported by NASA and the EPA.

System Requirements

Vis5D 5.1, the most recent version, works with the following systems:

Notes: The size of your memory determines the size of data set you can visualize. You should have two bytes of memory for each point in your data set in order to have maximum interactivity. However, you can visualize larger data sets with reduced interactivity.

How to get Vis5D

Vis5D is available by anonymous ftp from The distribution consists of two files: If you've used Vis5D in the past you do not need the vis5d-data.tar.Z file since you should already have the files it contains.

The README file contains the complete Vis5D documentation including compilation and installation instructions (section 2).

Manual ftp operation:

% ftp
Connected to
Name:  anonymous
Guest login ok, type your name as password.
Password:  myname@address
ftp> cd pub/vis5d
ftp> asc
ftp> get README
ftp> bin
ftp> get vis5d-5.1.tar.Z
ftp> get vis5d-data.tar.Z
ftp> bye
Precompiled Vis5D executables (along with map and topography files) are available for the following systems:

Your Web browser will ask where to put the file and what to name it. Put it in the directory where you want to install Vis5D, and name it vis5d.tar (your browser should automatically uncompress the file). Then enter the command "tar -xvf vis5d.tar" (make sure you're in the dirctory where you want to install Vis5D). Now Vis5D is installed. You can get rid of the tar file by entering the command "rm vis5d.tar".

Vis5D Bibliography

Video Publications

Installing Vis5d+ on OS X

Here are instructions for installing Vis5d+ on Apple's OS X.

Installing Linux on your PC

You can run Vis5D on your PC if you install the Linux operating system. It is a freeware version of Unix and you can find everything you need to know about it at The Linux Documentation Project Home Page. Note that about 2/3 of the way down the page you'll find a list of commercial Linux products that make installation easy.

Port of Vis5D to Windows NT

This port was done by Eric Kihn of the Weather Scenario Generator project team and Dr. Mikhail Zhizhink of World Data Center B in Russia. It requires the user to run locally a third-party X Windows server. One may choose this fully functional demo (recommended) or find a suitable Windows X Server here. You may download the executable and accompanying DLLs for Vis5D here.

You may also build the program from the source. You will need the GNU C compiler and libraries, X Windows client headers and libraries available at this site, a patch for the GNU C library, and the Vis5D-5.0 code found here.

The missing parts for now are

  1. Supplementary utilities( v5dinfo, v5dstats, etc.. )
  2. Format conversion routines( foo_to_v5d, foo2_to_v5d, etc.. )
  3. Scripting
Your Web browser will ask where to put the file and what to name it. Put it in the directory where you want to install Vis5D, and name it vis5d.tar (your browser should automatically uncompress the file). Then enter the command "tar -xvf vis5d.tar" (make sure you're in the dirctory where you want to install Vis5D). Now Vis5D is installed. You can get rid of the tar file by entering the command "rm vis5d.tar".

Serving and Viewing Vis5D Files Via the Web

In order to make it easy for modelers to examine each other's data sets, we have defined Vis5D files as a medium for exchanging information on the World Wide Web. Links to Vis5D files can be embedded in Web pages (just as links to GIF files can be embedded in web pages), and Mosaic can automatically invoke Vis5D to view them (just as it automatically invokes xv to view GIF files).

Click here to find out how to do it.

Year 2000 Statement of Compliance for Vis5D

Vis5D is Year 2000 compliant. It uses a two digit year, with 00 - 49 treated as 21st century, and 50-99 treated as 20th century. All date calculations are isolated in two simple functions in vis5d-5.1/src/v5d.c, named v5dYYDDDtoDays and v5dDaysToYYDDD.

Getting Help

UCAR maintains a Vis5D mailing list at Here's their web page about subscribing and posting.

Japanese Translation of this Page

Japanese translation of this page provided by Jianhua Ma.

German Translation of this Page

German translation of this page provided by Anastasiya Romanova.

Russian Translation of this Page

Russian translation of this page provided by azoft.

Bulgarian Translation of this Page

Bulgarian translation of this page provided by Cloud Lakes Team.

Ukrainian Translation of this and related Pages

Ukrainian translation of this page by Artem Delik

Ukrainian translation of Vis5D FAQ by Artem Delik

Ukrainian translation of McIDAS-V page by Artem Delik

Belorussian Translation of this Page

Belorussian translation of this page provided by Alexander Nikiforov.

Vis5D in the Virtual Reality CAVE and ImmersaDesk

Cave5D is a version of Vis5D that runs in the virtual reality CAVE and ImmersaDesk. It is freely available from Glen Wheless and Cathy Lascara of Old Dominion University and includes improvements they made that allow you to easily apply Cave5D to any Vis5D data set (i.e., any .v5d file). It is based on an early version of Cave5D that we demonstrated at the Siggraph '94 VROOM and at the Supercomputing '95 GII Testbed.

Vis5D Enhanced with Feature Tracking

FVis5D is a version of Vis5D enhanced for feature extraction and feature tracking. It is available from Deborah Silver and Simon Xin Wang of Rutgers University.

Other links

The Vis5D FAQ may answer a question you have about installing or using Vis5D.

The Vis5D API document describes the internal programming interface to Vis5D. This allows you to use Vis5D as a subsystem and is intended for programmers only.

The Vis5D scripting document describes the TCL scripting interface in Vis5D 5.1.

This Vis5D Tutorial may help you learn about Vis5D.

The UW-NMS group is using Vis5D to visualize operational forecasts.

NCAR Scientific Computing Division's Research Gallery contains lots of great visualizations produced using Vis5D (the forest fire simulation is especially hot).

McGill University has produced some great visualizations of a Hurricane Andrew Simulation using Vis5D.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has produced some great visualizations comparing model predictions with satellite images using Vis5D. YanChing Zhang ( of the EPA Vis Lab is the expert on the Vis5D TCL scripting language.

The TAO Project Office (NOAA/PMEL) has produced some great visualizations of TAO oceanographic data using Vis5D.

We also have a home page for VisAD.

Last updated on 17 September 1998.