Interactive 3D Visual Analysis of Atmospheric Fronts
*European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, UK
**Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
Atmospheric fronts play a central role in meteorology, as the boundaries between different air masses and as fundamental features of extra-tropical cyclones. They appear in numerous conceptual model depictions of extra-tropical weather systems. Conceptually, fronts are three-dimensional surfaces in space possessing an innate structural complexity, yet in meteorology, both manual and objective identification and depiction have historically focused on the structure in two dimensions. In this work, we –a team of visualization scientists and meteorologists– propose a novel visualization approach to analyze the three-dimensional structure of atmospheric fronts and related physical and dynamical processes. We build upon existing approaches to objectively identify fronts as lines in two dimensions and extend these to obtain frontal surfaces in three dimensions, using the magnitude of temperature change along the gradient of a moist potential temperature field as the primary identifying factor. We introduce the use of normal curves in the temperature gradient field to visualize a frontal zone (i.e., the transitional zone between the air masses) and the distribution of atmospheric variables in such zones. To enable for the first time a statistical analysis of frontal zones, we present a new approach to obtain the volume enclosed by a zone, by classifying grid boxes that intersect with normal curves emanating from a selected front. We introduce our method by means of an idealized numerical simulation and demonstrate its use with two real-world cases using numerical weather prediction data.