Structure and Motion of Severe-Wind-Producing Mesoscale Convective Systems and Derechos in Relation to the Mean Wind

Matthew A. Campbell Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, and The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

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Ariel E. Cohen NOAA/NWS/NCEP/Storm Prediction Center, Norman, Oklahoma

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Michael C. Coniglio NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma

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Andrew R. Dean NOAA/NWS/NCEP/Storm Prediction Center, Norman, Oklahoma

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Stephen F. Corfidi NOAA/NWS/NCEP/Storm Prediction Center, Norman, Oklahoma

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Sarah J. Corfidi Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Corey M. Mead NOAA/NWS/NCEP/Storm Prediction Center, Norman, Oklahoma

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Abstract

The goal of this study is to document differences in the convective structure and motion of long-track, severe-wind-producing MCSs from short-track severe-wind-producing MCSs in relation to the mean wind. An ancillary goal is to determine if these differences are large enough that some criterion for MCS motion relative to the mean wind could be used in future definitions of “derechos.” Results confirm past investigations that well-organized MCSs, including those that produce derechos, tend to move faster than the mean wind, exhibiting a significantly larger degree of propagation (component of MCS motion in addition to the component contributed by the mean flow). Furthermore, well-organized systems that produce shorter-track swaths of damaging winds likewise tend to move faster than the mean wind with a significant propagation component along the mean wind. Therefore, propagation in the direction of the mean wind is not necessarily a characteristic that can be used to distinguish derechos from nonderechos. However, there is some indication that long-track damaging wind events that occur without large-scale or persistent bow echoes and mesoscale convective vortices (MCVs) require a strong propagation component along the mean wind direction to become long lived. Overall, however, there does not appear to be enough separation in the motion characteristics among the MCS types to warrant the inclusion of a mean-wind criterion into the definition of a derecho at this time.

© 2017 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (http://www.ametsoc.org/PUBSCopyrightPolicy).

Corresponding author e-mail: Ariel Cohen, ariel.cohen@noaa.gov

Abstract

The goal of this study is to document differences in the convective structure and motion of long-track, severe-wind-producing MCSs from short-track severe-wind-producing MCSs in relation to the mean wind. An ancillary goal is to determine if these differences are large enough that some criterion for MCS motion relative to the mean wind could be used in future definitions of “derechos.” Results confirm past investigations that well-organized MCSs, including those that produce derechos, tend to move faster than the mean wind, exhibiting a significantly larger degree of propagation (component of MCS motion in addition to the component contributed by the mean flow). Furthermore, well-organized systems that produce shorter-track swaths of damaging winds likewise tend to move faster than the mean wind with a significant propagation component along the mean wind. Therefore, propagation in the direction of the mean wind is not necessarily a characteristic that can be used to distinguish derechos from nonderechos. However, there is some indication that long-track damaging wind events that occur without large-scale or persistent bow echoes and mesoscale convective vortices (MCVs) require a strong propagation component along the mean wind direction to become long lived. Overall, however, there does not appear to be enough separation in the motion characteristics among the MCS types to warrant the inclusion of a mean-wind criterion into the definition of a derecho at this time.

© 2017 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (http://www.ametsoc.org/PUBSCopyrightPolicy).

Corresponding author e-mail: Ariel Cohen, ariel.cohen@noaa.gov
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