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This paper describes a novel method for regional characterization of three-dimensional vector fields using a pattern matching approach. Given a three-dimensional vector field, the goal is to automatically locate, identify, and visualize a selected set of classes of structures or features. Rather than analytically defining the properties that must be fulfilled in a region in order to be classified as a specific structure, a set of idealized patterns for each structure type is constructed. Similarity to these patterns is then defined and calculated. Examples of structures of interest include vortices, swirling flow, diverging or converging flow, and parallel flow. Both medical and aerodynamic applications are presented in this paper.