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Factors Influencing the Development and Maintenance of Nocturnal Heavy-Rain-Producing Convective Systems in a Storm-Scale Ensemble

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, and Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado
  • | 2 Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, University of Oklahoma, and NOAA/OAR National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma
  • | 3 Center for the Analysis and Prediction of Storms, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
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Abstract

From 9 to 11 June 2010, a mesoscale convective vortex (MCV) was associated with several periods of heavy rainfall that led to flash flooding. During the overnight hours, mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) developed that moved slowly and produced heavy rainfall over small areas in south-central Texas on 9 June, north Texas on 10 June, and western Arkansas on 11 June. In this study, forecasts of this event from the Center for the Analysis and Prediction of Storms' Storm-Scale Ensemble Forecast system are examined. This ensemble, with 26 members at 4-km horizontal grid spacing, included a few members that very accurately predicted the development, maintenance, and evolution of the heavy-rain-producing MCSs, along with a majority of members that had substantial errors in their precipitation forecasts. The processes favorable for the initiation, organization, and maintenance of these heavy-rain-producing MCSs are diagnosed by comparing ensemble members with accurate and inaccurate forecasts. Even within a synoptic environment known to be conducive to extreme local rainfall, there was considerable spread in the ensemble's rainfall predictions. Because all ensemble members included an anomalously moist environment, the precipitation predictions were insensitive to the atmospheric moisture. However, the development of heavy precipitation overnight was very sensitive to the intensity and evolution of convection the previous day. Convective influences on the strength of the MCV and its associated dome of cold air at low levels determined whether subsequent deep convection was initiated and maintained. In all, this ensemble provides quantitative and qualitative information about the mesoscale processes that are most favorable (or unfavorable) for localized extreme rainfall.

Corresponding author address: Russ Schumacher, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523. E-mail: russ.schumacher@colostate.edu

Abstract

From 9 to 11 June 2010, a mesoscale convective vortex (MCV) was associated with several periods of heavy rainfall that led to flash flooding. During the overnight hours, mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) developed that moved slowly and produced heavy rainfall over small areas in south-central Texas on 9 June, north Texas on 10 June, and western Arkansas on 11 June. In this study, forecasts of this event from the Center for the Analysis and Prediction of Storms' Storm-Scale Ensemble Forecast system are examined. This ensemble, with 26 members at 4-km horizontal grid spacing, included a few members that very accurately predicted the development, maintenance, and evolution of the heavy-rain-producing MCSs, along with a majority of members that had substantial errors in their precipitation forecasts. The processes favorable for the initiation, organization, and maintenance of these heavy-rain-producing MCSs are diagnosed by comparing ensemble members with accurate and inaccurate forecasts. Even within a synoptic environment known to be conducive to extreme local rainfall, there was considerable spread in the ensemble's rainfall predictions. Because all ensemble members included an anomalously moist environment, the precipitation predictions were insensitive to the atmospheric moisture. However, the development of heavy precipitation overnight was very sensitive to the intensity and evolution of convection the previous day. Convective influences on the strength of the MCV and its associated dome of cold air at low levels determined whether subsequent deep convection was initiated and maintained. In all, this ensemble provides quantitative and qualitative information about the mesoscale processes that are most favorable (or unfavorable) for localized extreme rainfall.

Corresponding author address: Russ Schumacher, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523. E-mail: russ.schumacher@colostate.edu
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