Convective Episodes in the East-Central United States

Parker, Matthew D.; Ahijevych, David A.
November 2007
Monthly Weather Review;Nov2007, Vol. 135 Issue 11, p3707
Academic Journal
Nine years of composited radar data are investigated to assess the presence of organized convective episodes in the east-central United States. In the eastern United States, the afternoon maximum in thunderstorms is ubiquitous over land. However, after removing this principal diurnal peak from the radar data, the presence and motion of organized convective systems becomes apparent in both temporally averaged fields and in the statistics of convective episodes identified by an objective algorithm. Convective echoes are diurnally maximized over the Appalachian chain, and are repeatedly observed to move toward the east. Partly as a result of this, the daily maximum in storms is delayed over the Piedmont and coastal plain relative to the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic coast. During the 9 yr studied, the objective algorithm identified 2128 total convective episodes (236 yr-1), with several recurring behaviors. Many systems developed over the elevated terrain during the afternoon and moved eastward, often to the coastline and even offshore. In addition, numerous systems formed to the west of the Appalachian Mountains and moved into and across the eastern U.S. study domain. In particular, many nocturnal convective systems from the central United States entered the western side of the study domain, frequently arriving at the eastern mountains around the next day’s afternoon maximum in storm frequency. A fraction of such well-timed systems succeeded in crossing the Appalachians and continuing across the Piedmont and coastal plain. Convective episodes were most frequent during the high-instability, low-shear months of summer, which dominate the year-round statistics. Even so, an important result is that the episodes still occurred almost exclusively in above-average vertical wind shear. Despite the overall dominance of the diurnal cycle, the data show that adequate shear in the region frequently leads to long-lived convective episodes with mesoscale organization.


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