When I was a first-year graduate student at Colorado State, my dad advised me to get an early start on the seminal literature of the field, but I wasn’t sure where to start. I tried searching online for an atmospheric science “reading list”, but I couldn’t really find anything relevant. So I ended up asking one of my professors, Dave Randall, if he had a list of important papers that he felt every student should read. It took him a day or so for him to sort out what he thought were the “top” papers over the last 50 years, but he got back to me with this list:
Arakawa, A and W. H. Schubert, 1974: Interaction of a cumulus cloud ensemble with the large-scale environment, Part I. J. Atmos. Sci., 31, 674-701.
Charney, J. G., 1948: On the scale of atmospheric motions. Geophys. Publ. Oslo, 17, 1-17.
Charney, J. G. and P. G. Drazin, 1961: Propagation of planetary-scale disturbances from the lower into the upper atmosphere. J. Geophys. Res., 66, 83-109.
Lilly, D. K., 1968: Models of cloud-topped mixed layers under a strong inversion. Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc., 94, 292-309.
Lorenz, E. N., 1955: Available potential energy and the maintenance of the general circulation. Tellus, 7, 157-167.
Lorenz, E. N., 1963: Deterministic nonperiodic flow. J. Atmos. Sci., 20, 130-141.
Matsuno, T., 1966: Quasigeostrophic motions in the equatorial area. J. Meteor. Soc. Japan, 44, 25-43.
Manabe, S., and R. T. Wetherald, 1975: The effects of doubling the CO2 concentration on the climate of a general circulation model. J. Atmos.Sci., 32, 3-15.
As I read more of these I can easily see why these papers bubbled to the top of the list. The only ones I haven’t read yet are Lilly (1968) and Manabe and Weatherald (1975). Hopefully I’ll get around to posting my reading notes from Matsuno (1966), since this paper has been the most relevant for my research.
I also found this more extensive list of classic papers maintained by prof Geoff Vallis.