Old Web Pages: |CIMMS/NSSL|

Prof. David M. Schultz

Centre for Atmospheric Science
School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences
University of Manchester


My research is eclectic and fits into a number of different disciplines. It may be because I have self-diagnosed Scientific Attention Deficit Disorder, where I refuse to focus on a single topic for very long. Or it may be because I have interests in all the earth sciences (my undergraduate degree is in geology). Or, it may be that I just like following my nose on interesting research projects.

I have had the benefit of working with numerous excellent scientists and students in my career from all over the world. Such collaborations inspire and fuel my research interests. Below are just some of the topics that my research group is working on.

|Cyclones and Fronts| |Convective Storms| |Scientific Communication| |Weather and Society| |Earth History| |Operational Forecasting| |Snow, Microphysics, Arctic Climate| |Air Chemistry|


My M.S. thesis was on occluded fronts. My Ph.D. thesis was on how the large-scale flow in the troposphere determined whether a Norwegian cyclone or a Shapiro-Keyser cyclone formed. I've since collaborated with Heini Wernli and Fuqing Zhang on modeling these structures in baroclinic channel models. With the honor of speaking at the Fred Sanders Symposium in January 2004, I was given the opportunity to revisit many issues of frontal structure and dynamics that have always interested me. That inspired me to begin a research program on frontal structure and evolution. A summer student from Reading University, John Lawson, worked on identifying what fronts looked like from the Mesosphee-Stratosphere-Troposphere VHF wind-profiling radar in Aberystwyth, Wales. This knowledge helps us use this valuable resource more effectively to study the variety of weather systems over the UK. Other research questions that I and my group are considering:

  • Why do cold fronts move faster than warm fronts? Or do they?

  • Airstream boundaries versus fronts: What does the nature of the large-scale flow (confluence/diffluence) have to say about the airstreams (colloquially known as conveyor belts) within extratropical cyclones?

  • What is the structure of the boundary-layer near the ground during cold and warm advection?

  • What are sting jets and what controls where and when they form in extratropical cyclones? Why do only Shapiro-Keyser cyclones form sting jets? What are the physical processes involved in producing a sting jet?

  • Fronts in the real atmosphere have a wonderful variety of structures, but our conceptual models shoehorn this variety into a few rigid conceptual models. I am keen on developing new conceptual models that are built based on sound dynamical and theoretical principles.


    How can an understanding of the synoptic and mesoscale environment be applied to understanding storms on the convective scale? Climatologies are a first step to understanding the processes that create convective storms. I have been involved in research to look at the climatology of hail, cloud-to-ground lightning, and tornadoes in Finland (Tuovinen et al. 2009; Mäkelä et al. 2011; Rauhala et al. 2012), elevated convective storm environments in the United States (Horgan et al. 2007), convective snow bands over the waters around the UK (Norris et al. 2012), and convective storms over Arizona (Heinselman and Schultz 2006).

    Recent research by Melissa Schumann and Paul Roebber shows that the morphology of convective storms is related to the environment in which the storms form with more strongly forced. Bogdan Antonescu is looking at how tropopause folds are related to convective storms, particularly their morphologies. He's found that storms on the east side of troughs tend to be better organized than storms on the west side of troughs, confirming Schumann and Roebber's results.

    Others in our group are looking at:

  • how orography organizes convective storms (Jonathan Fairman, in collaboration with Dan Kirshbaum and Sue Gray)

  • the European climatology of severe weather (Fiona Lomas, in collaboration with the European Severe Storms Laboratory)

  • how tornadoes form along squall lines in the UK (Kelsey Mulder, along with David Smart, Matt Clark, and Jeff Trapp)


    While researching the material for my book Eloquent Science: A Practical Guide for Becoming a Better Writer, Speaker, and Atmospheric Scientist, I have become interested in how science works, goes through the review process, and gets communicated. This has lead to a number of different research projects and publications:

  • how to write effective meteorological case studies

  • whether the number of reviewers on a paper affects the rejection rate (published in Scientometrics)

  • the rejection rates of atmospheric science journals (published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society)

  • the factors that affect success rates in peer review
  • why conferences cost so much

  • why multi-part papers are not such a good idea

  • peer reviewers donate millions of dollars a year in free labor to journals

    (Cartoon by Nick Kim)


    I first awoke to the idea that meteorologists needed to get better acquainted with social sciences due to this woman: Prof. Eve Gruntfest. She inspired me that we could do all the best science and issue the best forecasts, but people might still die due to weather disasters because of the way we communicate our ideas. Case in point: Hurricane Katrina where the forecasts were as good as they could be, the National Weather Service issued never-before-issued dire predictions, and still nearly 2000 people died.

    I was privileged to be a Fellow of the first Weather and Society*Integrated Studies (WAS*IS) workshops and I helped secure the funding for and organize the 2006 WAS*IS workshop in Norman, Oklahoma. Since then, I have taken an interest in the following research topics, crossing the disciplines of science and social science.


    With my geology background and numerous wonderful colleagues in our interdisciplinary department, it's fun to work on joint projects. Our colleagues in the Manchester Museum are also eager for collaborations. Planned and ongoing projects include:

  • how orographic precipitation leads to glacial changes over time (with Ann Rowan and Simon Brocklehurst)

  • using Robert Berner's GEOCARBSULF model to better understand the biogeochemical controls on Earth's habitability (with Stefan Schroeder)

  • taphonomy of middle Jurassic plants from the Saltwick Formation, Yorkshire Coast (with Phil Manning)

  • investigating the large marine reptile collection of the Manchester Museum (with David Gelsthorpe and Phil Manning)

  • morphometric analysis of the Carboniferous plants of the Manchester Museum (with David Gelsthorpe and Rachel Webster)

    Other undergraduate dissertation projects are always possible. Other MEarthSci and PhD projects are possible. Be creative, and use the resources that our School has. Contact me for further information.


    One of the goals of synoptic-dynamic meteorology is to perform research that leads to better weather forecasts. In my former jobs at the National Severe Storms Laboratory and Finnish Meteorological Institute, my jobs were to improve the interactions between the research and forecasting groups, which were collocated in the same building. In Finland, one effort has been the Aurinko Collaboratory, a research laboratory where collaborations can occur.

    The other effort is to better understand the climatology of severe weather in Finland. This has produced a climatology of severe hail (Tuovinen et al. 2009), tornado climatology (Rauhala et al. 2012) and a synoptic climatology of tornadoes (ongoing research with Jenni Rauhala).

    I was also a contributor to a chapter in the book Mountain Meteorology Research and Forecasting entitled, "Bridging the gap between mountain weather research and operations", with Jim Steenburgh and forecasters Brad Snyder and Mike Meyers.

    My current research on orographic convective precipitation is a collaboration with Humphrey Lean and Nigel Roberts of the Met Office.

    (Image from NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory and Storm Prediction Center)


    Being a resident of the northern latitudes, I have had a fascination with snow, probably ever since the Superstorm of March 1993 (Credit my PhD advisor Lance Bosart for getting me involved in research on this storm.) Current and planned research projects range from the small scales of how ice crystals form to how organized snowbands form to produce prodigious snow accumulations to how the reduction in sea ice over the Northern Hemisphere will lead to changes in the weather and climate.

  • PhD student Chris Fairless is looking at how important snowbands that are unresolved by climate models are to understanding the predictability of the Northern Hemisphere climate.

  • PhD student Jesse Norris examined snowbands during the last two winters over the warmer waters surrounding the (this is research that has been submitted to the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society).

  • One of the most satisfying research projects I have worked on was improving our understanding of the factors that affected snow density with Paul Roebber (Roebber et al. 2003).

  • Past research has addressed the synoptic environments of thundersnow (Schultz 1999). This research culminated in a review article for Weather (Schultz and Vavrek 2009).


    Since coming to Finland and now the UK, I have grown to learn and love aerosol chemistry, air quality, and air chemistry modeling. Past and present projects include:

  • A review of operational, regional-scale, chemical weather forecasting models in Europe (Kukkonen et al. 2012)

  • Aerosol formation day climatologies (Mazon et al. 2008; Sogacheva et al. 2008)

  • Effect of pollution on the rainfall in Botswana (with Modise Wiston and Gordon McFiggans)

    (Image from Scott Archer-Nicholls)

    Last update: 6 June 2012