Don't be af-front-ed

By Frank Billingsley - Chief Meteorologist

As we've enjoyed our crisp, COOL front, the truth is there is technically no such thing as a "cool" front!

We have cold fronts (colder meets warm), warm fronts (warmer meets cold), stationary fronts (turns out the air masses are about the same temperature so neither moves much), and occluded fronts (where colder air rides over warm air from behind).

Occluded fronts are common in Seattle and the northwest where fog and gray days are prevalent, but I've never seen an occluded front here in Texas.

So, you might wonder why they are called a "front" in the first place!

First, the work of meteorologist Jacob Bjerknes led to the discovery in the early 1900s of different air masses interacting with each other to cause what we know as "weather." 

At the same time, meteorologists during World War I were drawing these different lines depicting the different air masses and their leading edges. Lines with triangle barbs showed the leading edge of cold air and which way it was moving while lines with half circles showed where the warm air started and its direction. But what to call those lines? Those leading edges?

Just like the most action during any battle is at the front lines, so was the weather action (storms, rain, etc.) at the front of these air masses. Thus, those leading edges where the weather happened became known as weather fronts, just like the front lines of battle.

As to blue for cold and red for warm, that just makes sense but colored pencils weren't created until 1924, so I'm not sure when that started as a practice. If you know, let me know!

By the way, there are other smaller separations of weather types that have become known as fronts. For instance, a gust front is created when a thunderstorm collapses and rushing cold wind collides with warmer surface air creating another storm. The sea breeze is a type of front we see all the time as colder air off the Gulf meets the warmer air over land to create storms. The famous dry line in west Texas separating very dry air from very moist air is sometimes called a dew point front.

So I'm good with "cool" front as we often see a cold front slide our way that only tends to cool us off! Saying that, get ready for Friday: a true COLD FRONT is heading this way!

Frank

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