10.2 Environmental factors in the upscale growth and longevity of MCSs derived from Rapid Update Cycle analyses

Wednesday, 13 October 2010: 8:45 AM
Grand Mesa Ballroom F (Hyatt Regency Tech Center)
Michael C. Coniglio, NOAA/NSSL, Norman, OK; and J. Hwang and D. J. Stensrud

Composite environments of mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) are produced from Rapid Update Cycle (RUC) analyses to explore the differences between rapidly- and slowly-developing MCSs as well as the differences ahead of long-lived and short-lived MCSs.

The composite first-storms environment for the rapidly-developing MCSs contains a stronger LLJ located closer to the first storms region, much more conditional instability, potential instability, and energy available for downdrafts, smaller 3 – 10 km vertical wind shear, and smaller geostrophic potential vorticity in the upper troposphere, when compared to the environment for the slowly-developing MCSs. The weaker shear above 3 km for the rapidly-developing MCSs is consistent with supercell or discrete cell modes being less likely in weaker deep layer shear and the greater potential for a cold pool to trigger convection when the shear is confined to lower levels. Furthermore, these results suggest that low values of upper-level potential vorticity may signal a rapid transition to an MCS.

The composite environment ahead of the genesis of long-lived MCSs contains a broader LLJ, a better-defined frontal zone, stronger low-level frontogenesis, deeper moisture and stronger wind shear above 2 km, when compared to short-lived MCSs. The larger shear above 2 km for the long-lived MCSs is consistent with the importance of shear elevated above the ground to help organize and maintain convection that feeds on the elevated unstable parcels after dark and is indicative of the enhanced baroclinicity ahead of the MCSs.

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