Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot Gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Real-time Detection of Split Fronts Using Mesoscale Models and WSR-88D Radar Products


A structured methodology for detecting the presence of split cold fronts in an operational forecast environment is developed and applied to a case in which a split front passed over a region of cold air damming in the southeastern United States. A real-time mesoscale model and various products from the WSR-88D-including the velocity-azimuth display wind profile (VWP) and hodograph products, plus a thermal advection retrieval scheme applied to the VWP data-are used to study this split front and an associated convective rainband that occurred on 19 December 1995. Wet-bulb temperature and vertical motion forecasts at 700 hPa from the model revealed the arc-shaped split front 300-500 km ahead of the surface cold front. As this midtropospheric front passed across the surface warm front and entered the cold air damming region, model vertical cross-section analyses showed that it created a deep elevated layer of potential instability. Furthermore, an ageostrophic transverse circulation associated with the split front provided the lifting mechanism for releasing this instability as deep convection. Analysis of the absolute geostrophic momentum field provided greater understanding of the structure of the split front and a deep tropospheric frontal system to its west that connected with the surface cold front. An ``S-inverted S'' pattern in the zero isodop on WSR-88D radial velocity displays indicative of wind backing above wind veering suggested the presence of the split front in the observations (as did the hodographs). Detection of the passage of the split front could be discerned from temporal changes in the vertical profile of the winds. namely by the appearance of midlevel backing of the winds in VWP time-height displays. Because of the subtlety of this backing and the need to be more quantitative, a temperature advection retrieval scheme using VWP data was developed. The complex evolving structure of the split front was revealed with this technique. Results from this retrieval method were judged to be meteorologically meaningful, to exhibit excellent time-space continuity, and to compare reasonably well with the frontal structures evident in the mesoscale model forecasts. The thermal advection scheme can easily be made to function in operations, as long as there is real-time access to level II radar data.}

Article / Publication Data
Available Metadata
Fiscal Year
Publication Name
Weather and Forecasting
Published On
January 01, 2001
Publisher Name
Amer Meteorological Soc
Print Volume
Print Number


Not available


Authors who have authored or contributed to this publication.