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Organizational Modes of Midlatitude Mesoscale Convective Systems

Matthew D. ParkerDepartment of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

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Richard H. JohnsonDepartment of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

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Abstract

This paper discusses common modes of mesoscale convective organization. Using 2-km national composite reflectivity data, the authors investigated linear mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) that occurred in the central United States during May 1996 and May 1997. Based upon the radar-observed characteristics of 88 linear MCSs, the authors propose a new taxonomy comprising convective lines with trailing (TS), leading (LS), and parallel (PS) stratiform precipitation. While the TS archetype was found to be the dominant mode of linear MCS organization, the LS and PS archetypes composed nearly 40% of the studied population. In this paper, the authors document the characteristics of each linear MCS class and use operational surface and upper air data to describe their different environments. In particular, wind profiler data reveal that the stratiform precipitation arrangement associated with each class was roughly consistent with the advection of hydrometeors implied by the mean middle- and upper-tropospheric storm-relative winds, which were significantly different among the three MCS modes. Case study examples are presented for both the LS and PS classes, which have received relatively little attention to this point. As well, the authors give a general overview of the synoptic-scale meteorology accompanying linear MCSs in this study, which was generally similar to that observed by previous investigators.

Corresponding author address: Matthew Parker, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1371.

Email: parker@squall.atmos.colostate.edu

Abstract

This paper discusses common modes of mesoscale convective organization. Using 2-km national composite reflectivity data, the authors investigated linear mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) that occurred in the central United States during May 1996 and May 1997. Based upon the radar-observed characteristics of 88 linear MCSs, the authors propose a new taxonomy comprising convective lines with trailing (TS), leading (LS), and parallel (PS) stratiform precipitation. While the TS archetype was found to be the dominant mode of linear MCS organization, the LS and PS archetypes composed nearly 40% of the studied population. In this paper, the authors document the characteristics of each linear MCS class and use operational surface and upper air data to describe their different environments. In particular, wind profiler data reveal that the stratiform precipitation arrangement associated with each class was roughly consistent with the advection of hydrometeors implied by the mean middle- and upper-tropospheric storm-relative winds, which were significantly different among the three MCS modes. Case study examples are presented for both the LS and PS classes, which have received relatively little attention to this point. As well, the authors give a general overview of the synoptic-scale meteorology accompanying linear MCSs in this study, which was generally similar to that observed by previous investigators.

Corresponding author address: Matthew Parker, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1371.

Email: parker@squall.atmos.colostate.edu

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