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Mesoscale Gravity Waves and Midlatitude Weather: A tribute to Fuqing Zhang

James H. Ruppert Jr.aSchool of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK

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Steven E. KochbDepartment of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

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Xingchao ChencDepartment of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science and Center for Advanced Data Assimilation and Predictability Techniques, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

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Yu DudSchool of Atmospheric Sciences, and Guangdong Province Key Laboratory for Climate Change and Natural Disaster Studies, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China
eSouthern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), Zhuhai, China

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Anton SeimonfCenter for Environmental Policy, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

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Y. Qiang SungAtmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Program, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

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Junhong WeidSchool of Atmospheric Sciences, and Guangdong Province Key Laboratory for Climate Change and Natural Disaster Studies, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China
eSouthern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), Zhuhai, China

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Lance F. BosarthDepartment of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, NY

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Abstract

Over the course of his career, Fuqing Zhang drew vital new insights into the dynamics of meteorologically significant mesoscale gravity waves (MGWs), including their generation by unbalanced jet streaks, their interaction with fronts and organized precipitation, and their importance in midlatitude weather and predictability. Zhang was the first to deeply examine “spontaneous balance adjustment” – the process by which MGWs are continuously emitted as baroclinic growth drives the upper-level flow out of balance. Through his pioneering numerical model investigation of the large-amplitude MGW event of 4 January 1994, he additionally demonstrated the critical role of MGW–moist convection interaction in wave amplification.

Zhang’s curiosity-turned-passion in atmospheric science covered a vast range of topics and led to the birth of new branches of research in mesoscale meteorology and numerical weather prediction. Yet, it was his earliest studies into midlatitude MGWs and their significant impacts on hazardous weather that first inspired him. Such MGWs serve as the focus of this review, wherein we seek to pay tribute to his groundbreaking contributions, review our current understanding, and highlight critical open science issues. Chief among such issues is the nature of MGW amplification through feedback with moist convection, which continues to elude our understanding. The pressing nature of this subject is underscored by the continued failure of operational numerical forecast models to adequately predict most large-amplitude MGW events. Further research into such issues therefore presents a valuable opportunity to improve the understanding and forecasting of this high-impact weather phenomenon, and in turn to preserve the spirit of Zhang’s dedication to this subject.

Corresponding author: James H. Ruppert, Jr., jruppert@ou.edu

Abstract

Over the course of his career, Fuqing Zhang drew vital new insights into the dynamics of meteorologically significant mesoscale gravity waves (MGWs), including their generation by unbalanced jet streaks, their interaction with fronts and organized precipitation, and their importance in midlatitude weather and predictability. Zhang was the first to deeply examine “spontaneous balance adjustment” – the process by which MGWs are continuously emitted as baroclinic growth drives the upper-level flow out of balance. Through his pioneering numerical model investigation of the large-amplitude MGW event of 4 January 1994, he additionally demonstrated the critical role of MGW–moist convection interaction in wave amplification.

Zhang’s curiosity-turned-passion in atmospheric science covered a vast range of topics and led to the birth of new branches of research in mesoscale meteorology and numerical weather prediction. Yet, it was his earliest studies into midlatitude MGWs and their significant impacts on hazardous weather that first inspired him. Such MGWs serve as the focus of this review, wherein we seek to pay tribute to his groundbreaking contributions, review our current understanding, and highlight critical open science issues. Chief among such issues is the nature of MGW amplification through feedback with moist convection, which continues to elude our understanding. The pressing nature of this subject is underscored by the continued failure of operational numerical forecast models to adequately predict most large-amplitude MGW events. Further research into such issues therefore presents a valuable opportunity to improve the understanding and forecasting of this high-impact weather phenomenon, and in turn to preserve the spirit of Zhang’s dedication to this subject.

Corresponding author: James H. Ruppert, Jr., jruppert@ou.edu
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