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J. M. Fritsch, R. J. Kane, and C. R. Chelius

Abstract

The contribution of precipitation from mesoscale convective weather systems to the warm-season (April–September) rainfall in the United States is evaluated. Both Mesoscale Convective Complexes (MCC's) and other large, long-lived mesoscale convective systems that do not quite meet Maddox's criteria for being termed an MCC are included in the evaluation. The distribution and geographical limits of the precipitation from the convective weather systems are constructed for the warm seasons of 1982, a “normal” year, and 1983, a drought year. Precipitation characteristics of the systems are compared for the 2 years to determine how large-scale drought patterns affect their precipitation production.

The frequency, precipitation characteristics and hydrologic ramifications of multiple occurrences, or series, of convective weather systems are presented and discussed. The temporal and spatial characteristics of the accumulated precipitation from a series of convective complexes is investigated and compared to that of Hurricane Alicia.

It is found that mesoscale convective weather systems account for approximately 30% to 70% of the warm-season (April–September) precipitation over much of the region between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River. During the June through August period, their contribution is even larger. Moreover, series of convective weather systems are very likely the most prolific precipitation producer in the United States, rivaling and even exceeding that of hurricanes.

Changes in the large-scale circulation patterns affected the seasonal precipitation from mesoscale convective weather systems by altering the precipitation characteristics of individual systems. In particular, for the drought period of 1983, the frequency of the convective systems remained nearly the same as in the “normal” year (1982); however, the average precipitation area and the average volumetric production significantly decreased. Nevertheless, the rainfall that was produced by mesoscale convective weather systems in the drought year accounted for most of the precipitation received during the critical crop growth period.

It is concluded that mesoscale convective weather systems may be a crucial precipitation-producing deterrent to drought and an important mechanism for enhancing midsummer crop growth throughout the midwestern United States. Furthermore, because mesoscale convective weather systems account for such a large fraction of the warm-season precipitation, significant improvements in prediction of such systems would likely translate into significant improvements in quantitative precipitation forecast skill and corresponding improvements in hydrologic forecasts of runoff.

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R. J. Kane Jr., C. R. Chelius, and J. M. Fritsch

Abstract

Precipitation from 74 mesoscale convective complexes is examined to determine the total precipitation, areal extent, and characteristic precipitation pattern of an average convective complex. The relationship between the average precipitation pattern and the track of the centroid of the satellite-observed, cold-cloud shield is determined as an aid to forecasting. The amount and spatial distribution of precipitation during each stage (i.e., initiation, maturation and dissipation) of the average convective system's life cycle are presented, as well as the precipitation patterns for systems that form in particular synoptic environments. The precipitation characteristics of MCCs are compared to those from 32 other convective weather systems that are similar to MCCs but do not meet all the MCC-definition criteria.

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Carly R. Tozer, James S. Risbey, Terence J. O’Kane, Didier P. Monselesan, and Michael J. Pook

Abstract

We assess the large-scale atmospheric dynamics influencing rainfall extremes in Tasmania, located within the Southern Hemisphere storm track. We characterize wet and dry multiday rainfall extremes in western and eastern Tasmania, two distinct climate regimes, and construct atmospheric flow composites around these extreme events. We consider the onset and decay of the events and find a link between Rossby wave trains propagating in the polar jet waveguide and wet and dry extremes across Tasmania. Of note is that the wave trains exhibit varying behavior during the different extremes. In the onset phase of rainfall extremes in western Tasmania, there is a coherent wave train in the Indian Ocean, which becomes circumglobal in extent and quasi-stationary as the event establishes and persists. Wet and dry extremes in this region are influenced by opposite phases of this circumglobal wave train pattern. In eastern Tasmania, wet extremes relate to a propagating wave train, which is first established in the Indian Ocean sector and propagates eastward to the Pacific Ocean sector as the event progresses. During dry extremes in eastern Tasmania, the wave train is first established in the Pacific Ocean, as opposed to Indian Ocean, and persists in this sector for the entire event, with a structure indicative of the Pacific–South American pattern. The findings regarding different wave train forms and their relationship to rainfall extremes have implications for extreme event attribution in other regions around the globe.

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James S. Risbey, Didier P. Monselesan, Terence J. O’Kane, Carly R. Tozer, Michael J. Pook, and Peter T. Hayman

Abstract

We define and examine extreme frost events at three station locations across southern Australia. A synoptic assessment of the events shows that they are generally characterized by passage of a front or trough followed by a developing blocking high. Frost typically occurs at the leading edge of the block. The very cold air pool leading to the frost event is the result of descent of cold, dry midtropospheric air parcels from regions poleward of the station. The air is exceptionally cold because it is advected across the strong meridional temperature gradients in the storm track. The air is dry because this equatorward meridional pathway requires descent and so must have origins well above the surface in the dryer midtroposphere. The position of the block and location of the dry descent are dynamically determined by large-scale waveguide modes in the polar jet waveguide. The role of the waveguide modes is deduced from composites of midtropospheric flow anomalies over the days preceding and after the frost events. These show organized wavenumber 3 or 4 wave trains, with the block associated with the frost formed as a node of the wave train. The wave trains resemble known waveguide modes such as the Pacific–South America mode, and the frost event projects clearly onto these modes during their life cycle. The strong interannual and decadal variability of extreme frost events at a location can be understood in light of event dependence on organized waveguide modes.

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Harold H. Opitz, Solomon G. Summer, David A. Wert, Warren R. Snyder, Richard J. Kane, Raymond H. Brady, Paul M. Stokols, Stephan C. Kuhl, and Gary M. Carter

Abstract

Over the years, as the recognition and understanding of the structure and climatic frequency of heavy-rain events has expanded, there has been a corresponding improvement in the available forecast guidance on both the national and local level. Numerous operational procedures, forecast applications, and objective techniques have been developed at National Weather Service (NWS) field offices to assess the potential for heavy precipitation and flooding. The use of simple models and operational checklists, as well as the identification of precipitation enhancements due to the effects of terrain and local climatology, provide forecasters with useful tools that help interpret and improve upon the central guidance products. In addition, the NWS Eastern Region has devised and implemented an aggressive and comprehensive program to support the daily formulation of quantitative precipitation estimates appropriate for the production of more timely and accurate river forecasts. Finally, access to high-resolution information from new remote sensor technologies such as Doppler radar, vertical wind profilers, lightning detection networks, and the next generation of geostationary satellites presents the possibility of a substantial improvement in the prediction of heavy precipitation.

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Jerald A. Brotzge, J. Wang, C. D. Thorncroft, E. Joseph, N. Bain, N. Bassill, N. Farruggio, J. M. Freedman, K. Hemker Jr., D. Johnston, E. Kane, S. McKim, S. D. Miller, J. R. Minder, P. Naple, S. Perez, James J. Schwab, M. J. Schwab, and J. Sicker

Abstract

The New York State Mesonet (NYSM) is a network of 126 standard environmental monitoring stations deployed statewide with an average spacing of 27 km. The primary goal of the NYSM is to provide high-quality weather data at high spatial and temporal scales to improve atmospheric monitoring and prediction, especially for extreme weather events. As compared with other statewide networks, the NYSM faced considerable deployment obstacles with New York’s complex terrain, forests, and very rural and urban areas; its wide range of weather extremes; and its harsh winter conditions. To overcome these challenges, the NYSM adopted a number of innovations unique among statewide monitoring systems, including 1) strict adherence to international siting standards and metadata documentation; 2) a hardened system design to facilitate continued operations during extreme, high-impact weather; 3) a station design optimized to monitor winter weather conditions; and 4) a camera installed at every site to aid situational awareness. The network was completed in spring of 2018 and provides data and products to a variety of sectors including weather monitoring and forecasting, emergency management, agriculture, transportation, utilities, and education. This paper focuses on the standard network of the NYSM and reviews the network siting, site configuration, sensors, site communications and power, network operations and maintenance, data quality control, and dissemination. A few example analyses are shown that highlight the benefits of the NYSM.

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