Satpy is designed to provide easy access to common operations for processing meteorological remote sensing data. Any details needed to perform these operations are configured internally to Satpy meaning users should not have to worry about how something is done, only ask for what they want. Most of the features provided by Satpy can be configured by keyword arguments (see the API Documentation or other specific section for more details). For more complex customizations or added features Satpy uses a set of configuration files that can be modified by the user. The various components and concepts of Satpy are described below. The Quickstart guide also provides simple example code for the available features of Satpy.


Satpy provides most of its functionality through the Scene class. This acts as a container for the datasets being operated on and provides methods for acting on those datasets. It attempts to reduce the amount of low-level knowledge needed by the user while still providing a pythonic interface to the functionality underneath.

A Scene object represents a single geographic region of data, typically at a single continuous time range. It is possible to combine Scenes to form a Scene with multiple regions or multiple time observations, but it is not guaranteed that all functionality works in these situations.


Satpy’s lower-level container for data is the xarray.DataArray. For historical reasons DataArrays are often referred to as “Datasets” in Satpy. These objects act similar to normal numpy arrays, but add additional metadata and attributes for describing the data. Metadata is stored in a .attrs dictionary and named dimensions can be accessed in a .dims attribute, along with other attributes. In most use cases these objects can be operated on like normal NumPy arrays with special care taken to make sure the metadata dictionary contains expected values. See the XArray documentation for more info on handling xarray.DataArray objects.

Additionally, Satpy uses a special form of DataArrays where data is stored in dask.array.Array objects which allows Satpy to perform multi-threaded lazy operations vastly improving the performance of processing. For help on developing with dask and xarray see Migrating to xarray and dask or the documentation for the specific project.

To uniquely identify DataArray objects Satpy uses DataID. A DataID consists of various pieces of available metadata. This usually includes name and wavelength as identifying metadata, but can also include resolution, calibration, polarization, and additional modifiers to further distinguish one dataset from another. For more information on DataID objects, have a look a Satpy internal workings: having a look under the hood.


XArray includes other object types called “Datasets”. These are different from the “Datasets” mentioned in Satpy.

Data chunks

The usage of dask as the foundation for Satpy’s operation means that the underlying data is chunked, that is, cut in smaller pieces that can then be processed in parallel. Information on dask’s chunking can be found in the dask documentation here: https://docs.dask.org/en/stable/array-chunks.html The size of these chunks can have a significant impact on the performance of satpy, so to achieve best performance it can be necessary to adjust it.

Default chunk size used by Satpy can be configured by using the following around your code:

with dask.config.set("array.chunk-size": "32MiB"):
  # your code here

Or by using:

dask.config.set("array.chunk-size": "32MiB")

at the top of your code.

There are other ways to set dask configuration items, including configuration files or environment variables, see here: https://docs.dask.org/en/stable/configuration.html

The value of the chunk-size can be given in different ways, see here: https://docs.dask.org/en/stable/api.html#dask.utils.parse_bytes

The default value for this parameter is 128MiB, which can translate to chunk sizes of 4096x4096 for 64-bit float arrays.

Note however that some reader might choose to use a liberal interpretation of the chunk size which will not necessarily result in a square chunk, or even to a chunk size of the exact requested size. The motivation behind this is that data stored as stripes may load much faster if the horizontal striping is kept as much as possible instead of cutting the data in square chunks. However, the Satpy readers should respect the overall chunk size when it makes sense.


The legacy way of providing the chunks size in Satpy is the PYTROLL_CHUNK_SIZE environment variable. This is now pending deprecation, so an equivalent way to achieve the same result is by using the DASK_ARRAY__CHUNK_SIZE environment variable. The value to assign to the variable is the square of the legacy variable, multiplied by the size of array data type at hand, so for example, for 64-bits floats:

export DASK_ARRAY__CHUNK_SIZE=134217728

which is the same as:


is equivalent to the deprecated:



One of the biggest advantages of using Satpy is the large number of input file formats that it can read. It encapsulates this functionality into individual Reading. Satpy Readers handle all of the complexity of reading whatever format they represent. Meteorological Satellite file formats can be extremely complex and formats are rarely reused across satellites or instruments. No matter the format, Satpy’s Reader interface is meant to provide a consistent data loading interface while still providing flexibility to add new complex file formats.


Many users of satellite imagery combine multiple sensor channels to bring out certain features of the data. This includes using one dataset to enhance another, combining 3 or more datasets in to an RGB image, or any other combination of datasets. Satpy comes with a lot of common composite combinations built-in and allows the user to request them like any other dataset. Satpy also makes it possible to create your own custom composites and have Satpy treat them like any other dataset. See Composites for more information.


Satellite imagery data comes in two forms when it comes to geolocation, native satellite swath coordinates and uniform gridded projection coordinates. It is also common to see the channels from a single sensor in multiple resolutions, making it complicated to combine or compare the datasets. Many use cases of satellite data require the data to be in a certain projection other than the native projection or to have output imagery cover a specific area of interest. Satpy makes it easy to resample datasets to allow for users to combine them or grid them to these projections or areas of interest. Satpy uses the PyTroll pyresample package to provide nearest neighbor, bilinear, or elliptical weighted averaging resampling methods. See Resampling for more information.


When making images from satellite data the data has to be manipulated to be compatible with the output image format and still look good to the human eye. Satpy calls this functionality “enhancing” the data, also commonly called scaling or stretching the data. This process can become complicated not just because of how subjective the quality of an image can be, but also because of historical expectations of forecasters and other users for how the data should look. Satpy tries to hide the complexity of all the possible enhancement methods from the user and just provide the best looking image by default. Satpy still makes it possible to customize these procedures, but in most cases it shouldn’t be necessary. See the documentation on Writing for more information on what’s possible for output formats and enhancing images.


Satpy is designed to make data loading, manipulating, and analysis easy. However, the best way to get satellite imagery data out to as many users as possible is to make it easy to save it in multiple formats. Satpy allows users to save data in image formats like PNG or GeoTIFF as well as data file formats like NetCDF. Each format’s complexity is hidden behind the interface of individual Writer objects and includes keyword arguments for accessing specific format features like compression and output data type. See the Writing documentation for the available writers and how to use them.