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David M. Schultz

Abstract

One characteristic of Fred Sanders' research is his ability to take a topic that is believed to be well understood by the research community and show that interesting research problems still exist. Among Sanders' considerable contributions to synoptic meteorology, those concerned with surface cold fronts have been especially influential. After a brief historical review of fronts and frontal analysis, this chapter presents three stages in Sanders' career when he performed research on the structure, dynamics, and analysis of surface cold fronts. First, his 1955 paper, "An investigation of the structure and dynamics of an intense surface frontal zone," was the first study to discuss quantitatively the dynamics of a surface cold front. In the 1960s, Sanders and his students further examined the structure of cold fronts, resulting in the unpublished 1967 report to the National Science Foundation, "Frontal structure and the dynamics of frontogenesis." For a third lime in his career, Sanders published several papers (1995–2005) revisiting the structure and dynamics of cold fronts. His 1967 and 1995–2005 work raises the question of the origin and dynamics of the surface pressure trough and/or wind shift that sometimes precedes the temperature gradient (hereafter called a prefrontal trough or prefrontal wind shift, respectively). Sanders showed that the relationship between this prefrontal feature and the temperature gradient is fundamental to the strength of the front. When the wind shift is coincident with the temperature gradient, frontogenesis (strengthening of the front) results; when the wind shift lies ahead of the temperature gradient, frontolysis (weakening of the front) results. a number of proposed mechanisms for the formation of prefrontal troughs and prefrontal wind shifts exist. Consequently, much research remains to be performed on these topics.

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David M. Schultz and Paul J. Roebber

Abstract

Over 50 yr have passed since the publication of Sanders' 1955 study, the first quantitative study of the structure and dynamics of a surface cold front. The purpose of this chapter is to reexamine some of the results of that study in light of modern methods of numerical weather prediction and diagnosis. A simulation with a resolution as high as 6-km horizontal grid spacing was performed with the fifth-generation-Pennsylvania State University-National Center for Atmospheric Research (PSU-NCAR) Mesoscale Model (MM5), given initial and lateral boundary conditions from the National Centers for Environmental Precipitation-National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP-NCAR) reanalysis project data from 17 to 18 April 1953. The MM5 produced a reasonable simulation af the front, albeit its strength was not as intense and its movement was not as fast as was analyzed by Sanders. The vertical structure of the front differed from that analyzed by Sanders in several significant ways. First, the strongest horizontal temperature gradient associated with the cold front in the simulation occurred above a surface-based inversion, not at the earth's surface. Second, the ascent plume at the leading edge of the front was deeper and more intense than that analyzed by Sanders. The reason was an elevated mixed layer that had moved over the surface cold front in the simulation, allowing a much deeper vertical circulation than was analyzed by Sanders. This structure is similar to that of Australian cold fronts with their deep, well-mixed, prefrontal surface layer. These two differences between the model simulation and the analysis by Sanders may be because upper-air data from Fort Worth, Texas, was unavailable to Sanders. Third, the elevated mixed layer also meant that isentropes along the leading edge of the front extended vertically. Fourth, the field of frontogenesis of the horizontal temperature gradient calculated from the three-dimensional wind differed in that the magnitude of the maximum of the deformation term was larger than the magnitude of the maximum of the tilting term in the simulation, in contrast to Sanders' analysis and other previously published cases. These two discrepancies may be attributable to the limited horizontal resolution of the data that Sanders used in constructing his cross section. Last, a deficiency of the model simulation was that the postfrontal surface superadiabatic layer in the model did not match the observed well-mixed boundary layer. This result raises the question of the origin of the well-mixed postfrontal boundary layer behind cold fronts. To address this question, an additional model simulation without surface fluxes was performed, producing a well-mixed, not superadiabatic, layer. This result suggests that surface fluxes were not necessary for the development of the well-mixed layer, in agreement with previous research. Analysis of this event also amplifies two research themes that Sanders returned to later in his career, First, a prefrontal wind shift occurred in both the observations and model simulation at stations in western Oklahoma. This prefrontal wind shift was caused by a lee cyclone departing the leeward slopes of the Rockies slightly equatorward of the cold front, rather than along the front as was the case farther eastward. Sanders' later research showed how the occurrence of these prefrontal wind shifts leads to the weakening of fronts. Second, this study shows the advantage of using surface potential temperature, rather than surface temperature, for determining the locations of the surface fronts on sloping terrain.

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David M. Schultz, Lance F. Bosart, Brian A. Colle, Huw C. Davies, Christopher Dearden, Daniel Keyser, Olivia Martius, Paul J. Roebber, W. James Steenburgh, Hans Volkert, and Andrew C. Winters

Abstract

The year 1919 was important in meteorology, not only because it was the year that the American Meteorological Society was founded, but also for two other reasons. One of the foundational papers in extratropical cyclone structure by Jakob Bjerknes was published in 1919, leading to what is now known as the Norwegian cyclone model. Also that year, a series of meetings was held that led to the formation of organizations that promoted the international collaboration and scientific exchange required for extratropical cyclone research, which by necessity involves spatial scales spanning national borders. This chapter describes the history of scientific inquiry into the structure, evolution, and dynamics of extratropical cyclones, their constituent fronts, and their attendant jet streams and storm tracks. We refer to these phenomena collectively as the centerpiece of meteorology because of their central role in fostering meteorological research during this century. This extremely productive period in extratropical cyclone research has been possible because of 1) the need to address practical challenges of poor forecasts that had large socioeconomic consequences, 2) the intermingling of theory, observations, and diagnosis (including dynamical modeling) to provide improved physical understanding and conceptual models, and 3) strong international cooperation. Conceptual frameworks for cyclones arise from a desire to classify and understand cyclones; they include the Norwegian cyclone model and its sister the Shapiro–Keyser cyclone model. The challenge of understanding the dynamics of cyclones led to such theoretical frameworks as quasigeostrophy, baroclinic instability, semigeostrophy, and frontogenesis. The challenge of predicting explosive extratropical cyclones in particular led to new theoretical developments such as potential-vorticity thinking and downstream development. Deeper appreciation of the limits of predictability has resulted from an evolution from determinism to chaos. Last, observational insights led to detailed cyclone and frontal structure, storm tracks, and rainbands.

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