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Climatology of Linear Mesoscale Convective System Morphology in the United States Based on the Random-Forests Method

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  • 1 a Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
  • | 2 b Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington
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Abstract

This study uses machine-learning methods, specifically the random-forests (RF) method, on a radar-based mesoscale convective system (MCS) tracking dataset to classify the five types of linear MCS morphology in the contiguous United States during the period 2004–16. The algorithm is trained using radar- and satellite-derived spatial and morphological parameters, along with reanalysis environmental information from a 5-yr manually identified nonlinear mode and five linear MCS modes. The algorithm is then used to automate the classification of linear MCSs over 8 years with high accuracy, providing a systematic, long-term climatology of linear MCSs. Results reveal that nearly 40% of MCSs are classified as linear MCSs, of which one-half of the linear events belong to the type of system having a leading convective line. The occurrence of linear MCSs shows large annual and seasonal variations. On average, 113 linear MCSs occur annually during the warm season (March–October), with most of these events clustered from May through August in the central eastern Great Plains. MCS characteristics, including duration, propagation speed, orientation, and system cloud size, have large variability among the different linear modes. The systems having a trailing convective line and the systems having a back-building area of convection typically move more slowly and have higher precipitation rate, and thus they have higher potential for producing extreme rainfall and flash flooding. Analysis of the environmental conditions associated with linear MCSs show that the storm-relative flow is of most importance in determining the organization mode of linear MCSs.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Xiquan Dong, xdong@arizona.edu

Abstract

This study uses machine-learning methods, specifically the random-forests (RF) method, on a radar-based mesoscale convective system (MCS) tracking dataset to classify the five types of linear MCS morphology in the contiguous United States during the period 2004–16. The algorithm is trained using radar- and satellite-derived spatial and morphological parameters, along with reanalysis environmental information from a 5-yr manually identified nonlinear mode and five linear MCS modes. The algorithm is then used to automate the classification of linear MCSs over 8 years with high accuracy, providing a systematic, long-term climatology of linear MCSs. Results reveal that nearly 40% of MCSs are classified as linear MCSs, of which one-half of the linear events belong to the type of system having a leading convective line. The occurrence of linear MCSs shows large annual and seasonal variations. On average, 113 linear MCSs occur annually during the warm season (March–October), with most of these events clustered from May through August in the central eastern Great Plains. MCS characteristics, including duration, propagation speed, orientation, and system cloud size, have large variability among the different linear modes. The systems having a trailing convective line and the systems having a back-building area of convection typically move more slowly and have higher precipitation rate, and thus they have higher potential for producing extreme rainfall and flash flooding. Analysis of the environmental conditions associated with linear MCSs show that the storm-relative flow is of most importance in determining the organization mode of linear MCSs.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Xiquan Dong, xdong@arizona.edu
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