Climatology and Variability of Warm and Cold Fronts over North America from 1979 to 2018

Ryan Lagerquist, John T. Allen, Amy McGovern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This paper describes the development and analysis of an objective climatology of warm and cold fronts over North America from 1979 to 2018. Fronts are detected by a convolutional neural network (CNN), trained to emulate fronts drawn by human meteorologists. Predictors for the CNN are surface and 850-hPa fields of temperature, specific humidity, and vector wind from the ERA5 reanalysis. Gridded probabilities from the CNN are converted to 2D frontal regions, which are used to create the climatology. Overall, warm and cold fronts are most common in the Pacific and Atlantic cyclone tracks and the lee of the Rockies. In contrast with prior research, we find that the activity of warm and cold fronts is significantly modulated by the phase and intensity of El Ninõ-Southern Oscillation. The influence of El Ninõ is significant for winter warm fronts, winter cold fronts, and spring cold fronts, with activity decreasing over the continental United States and shifting northward with the Pacific and Atlantic cyclone tracks. Long-term trends are generally not significant, although we find a poleward shift in frontal activity during the winter and spring, consistent with prior research. We also identify a number of regional patterns, such as a significant long-term increase in warm fronts in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, which are characterized almost entirely by moisture gradients rather than temperature gradients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6531-6554
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


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