Infrared imagery from GOES was used to document mesoscale convective complexes (MCCs) over the United States during 1986 and 1987. A near-record 58 MCCs occurred in 1986, and 44 occurred in 1987. Although these totals were above average relative to MCC numbers of the 7 years prior to 1985, seasonal distributions for both years were atypical. Particularly, each had an extended period (∼3 weeks) when no MCCs occurred in late spring and early summer, a time when the mean MCC seasonal distribution peaks. This peculiarity was investigated by comparing mean large-scale surface and upper-air environments of null- and active-MCC periods of both years. Results confirmed the primary importance to MCC development of strong low-level thermal forcing, as well as proper vertical phasing of favorable lower- and midtropospheric environments.
A cursory survey of MCCs documented outside of the United States reveals that MCCs, or MCC-type storms, are a warm-season phenomenon of midlatitude, subtropical, and low-latitude regions around the globe. They have been documented in South America, Mexico, Europe, West Africa, and China. These storm systems are similar to United States MCCs in that they are nocturnal, persist for over 10 h, tend to develop within weak synoptic-scale dynamics in response to strong low-level thermal forcing and conditional instability, and occur typically downwind (midlevel) of elevated terrain. It is surmised that MCCs probably occur over other parts of the midlatitudes, subtropics, and low latitudes that have yet to be surveyed.