When during Their Life Cycle Are Extratropical Cyclones Attended by Fronts?

Schemm, Sebastian ; Sprenger, Michael ; Wernli, Heini

Année de publication
For nearly a century, the study of atmospheric dynamics in the midlatitudes has presented dichotomic perspectives on one of its focal points: the birth and life cycle of cyclones. In particular, the role of fronts has driven much of the historical discourse on cyclogenesis. In the 1910s-20s, the Bergen School of Meteorology postulated that cyclogenesis occurs on a preexisting front. This concept was later replaced by the baroclinic instability paradigm, which describes the development of a surface front as a consequence of the growing cyclone rather than its cause. However, there is ample observational evidence for cyclogenesis on well-marked fronts (frontal-wave cyclones) as well as for cyclogenesis in the absence of fronts in broader baroclinic zones. Thus, after a century of research on the link between extratropical cyclones and fronts, this study has the objective of climatologically quantifying their relationship. By combining identification schemes for cyclones and fronts, the fraction of cyclones with attendant fronts is quantified at all times during the cyclones' life cycle. The storm-track regions over the North Atlantic are dominated by cyclones that form on preexisting fronts. Over the North Pacific, the result more strongly depends on the front definition. Cyclones that acquire their fronts during the life cycle dominate over the continents and in the Mediterranean. Further, cyclones that develop attendant fronts during their life cycle typically do so around the time they attain maximum intensity. At the time of cyclolysis, at least 40% of all cyclones are still associated with a front. The number of occluded fronts at lysis has not been considered.

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