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Abstract

This paper addresses the long-standing problem of plotting atmospheric fronts objectively. A thermodynamic definition of a front is proposed. Time-independent diagnostic quantities are then devised according to this definition. These can be computed from any gridded dataset. Fronts are then plotted, without human intervention, by utilising standard graphics package facilities, such as contouring, to represent the diagnostics. The methodology includes applying threshold criteria to erase automatically fronts which are thermally weak. By tuning these criteria a good match with subjective fronts is obtained. In addition, the objective surface fronts very often coincide with troughs in surface pressure, implying that a thermodynamic definition is sufficient. The objective front-plotting is further developed to recognise split fronts, and ana- and kata-front characteristics. Many examples are presented; these illustrate how objective fronts are potentially a very powerful tool for both forecasting and research. At the Joint Centre for Mesoscale Meteorology plots and animations showing objective fronts have been produced on a daily basis for many months now. Copyright © 1998 Royal Meteorological Society