Distribution of Mesoscale Convective Complex Rainfall in the United States

Walker S. Ashley Climatology Research Laboratory, Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Thomas L. Mote Climatology Research Laboratory, Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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P. Grady Dixon Climatology Research Laboratory, Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Sharon L. Trotter Climatology Research Laboratory, Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Emily J. Powell Climatology Research Laboratory, Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Joshua D. Durkee Climatology Research Laboratory, Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Andrew J. Grundstein Climatology Research Laboratory, Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Abstract

Several annual mesoscale convective complex (MCC) summaries have been compiled since Maddox strictly defined their criteria in 1980. These previous studies have largely been independent of each other and therefore have not established the extended spatial and temporal patterns associated with these large, quasi-circular, and, typically, severe convective systems. This deficiency is primarily due to the difficulty of archiving enough satellite imagery to accurately record each MCC based on Maddox's criteria. Consequently, this study utilizes results from each of the MCC summaries compiled between 1978 and 1999 for the United States in order to develop a more complete climatology, or description of long-term means and interannual variation, of these storms. Within the 22-yr period, MCC summaries were compiled for a total of 15 yr. These 15 yr of MCC data are employed to establish estimated tracks for all MCCs documented and, thereafter, are utilized to determine MCC populations on a monthly, seasonal, annual, and multiyear basis. Subsequent to developing an extended climatology of MCCs, the study ascertains the spatial and temporal patterns of MCC rainfall and determines the precipitation contributions made by MCCs over the central and eastern United States. Results indicate that during the warm season, significant portions of the Great Plains receive, on average, between 8% and 18% of their total precipitation from MCC rainfall. However, there is large yearly and even monthly variability in the location and frequency of MCC events that leads to highly variable precipitation contributions.

Corresponding author address: Walker Ashley, Climatology Research Laboratory, Department of Geography, University of Georgia, GG Building #204, Athens, GA 30602-2502. Email: washley@uga.edu

Abstract

Several annual mesoscale convective complex (MCC) summaries have been compiled since Maddox strictly defined their criteria in 1980. These previous studies have largely been independent of each other and therefore have not established the extended spatial and temporal patterns associated with these large, quasi-circular, and, typically, severe convective systems. This deficiency is primarily due to the difficulty of archiving enough satellite imagery to accurately record each MCC based on Maddox's criteria. Consequently, this study utilizes results from each of the MCC summaries compiled between 1978 and 1999 for the United States in order to develop a more complete climatology, or description of long-term means and interannual variation, of these storms. Within the 22-yr period, MCC summaries were compiled for a total of 15 yr. These 15 yr of MCC data are employed to establish estimated tracks for all MCCs documented and, thereafter, are utilized to determine MCC populations on a monthly, seasonal, annual, and multiyear basis. Subsequent to developing an extended climatology of MCCs, the study ascertains the spatial and temporal patterns of MCC rainfall and determines the precipitation contributions made by MCCs over the central and eastern United States. Results indicate that during the warm season, significant portions of the Great Plains receive, on average, between 8% and 18% of their total precipitation from MCC rainfall. However, there is large yearly and even monthly variability in the location and frequency of MCC events that leads to highly variable precipitation contributions.

Corresponding author address: Walker Ashley, Climatology Research Laboratory, Department of Geography, University of Georgia, GG Building #204, Athens, GA 30602-2502. Email: washley@uga.edu

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